Friday, September 23, 2011

From High LIne to Low Line

New York City's High Line - the now famous abandoned train-track-turned-park - has become well known around the world as a spectacular example of urban revitalization through smart design, even inspiring copycat elevated parks. Now Manhattan is considering another abandoned train track park renovation project called "The Low Line" - this time in the Lower East Side neighborhood. The big difference l is that the abandoned train station in question is entirely underground (below Delancey Street) - a subterranean challenge which would require an innovative approach to lighting in order to facilitate plant growth and human comfort. (Anyone who has ever been inside a NYC subway station knows that a lot of work would be required to transform one of these dank dark caves into a tranquil, pastoral setting).

That's why we're intrigued by this ingenious proposal for the new Low Line underground park by architect James Ramsey, the principal of RAAD, in part with Dan Barasch of tech think tank PopTech, to pump natural sunlight into the subterranean space with fiberoptic cables and mirrors, somewhat like a solar tube or a sunlight transport device (which we've covered here and here on Inhabitat), allowing plants to grow and creating a serene and sunny underground urban oasis.

The next task is to sell the neighborhood on a park with walls and a ceiling supported by I beams. Community Board 3 got its first look at the plan on Wednesday, giving residents the chance to start imagining what it might feel like to loll on a subterranean sheep meadow Another idea might be to include retail spaces and maintain a pubic arcade along a central corridor. This way private money pays for some of the capital costs and maintains it.

Some skeptics consider the logistics too complex to render a final park that is anything more than a glorified subway station. Perhaps, but why not start by converting q few functioning subway stations into more parklike environments.

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