James Ramsey, New York (USA), for “The Lowline” N.Y. – fibre-optic technology to capture sunlight underground

Zumtobel Group Award 2014

Adaptive reuse of abandoned infrastructure with high historical relevance | Sustainable and innovative lighting technology to create the first underground park | Scalable and highly replicable urban amenity | Local and city-wide asset will become a tourist attraction and business catalyst | Crowd-sourced initiative has received extensive community and financial support

Copyright: The Lowline, James Ramsey, New York, USA

Copyright: The Lowline, James Ramsey, New York, USA

The Lowline will be the world's first underground park, housed in a trolley terminal that has been vacant since 1948. Using next-generation solar technology and a new approach towards adaptive reuse, the Lowline will set a new standard for how cities build public green space. With urban development focused on building up, the Lowline could shift the paradigm to highlight the potential of space beneath our feet.

The Lowline aims to convert an abandoned, historic trolley terminal in the Lower East Side of New York City into an extraordinary subterranean cultural amenity. Solar canopy and green garden which flourished solely from the transferred sunlight at the 2012 technology exhibition: Over 11,000 people came to see the demonstration during the two weeks it was open, making it the most popular cultural attraction in the Lower East Side at that time. The Lowline will also enhance the community and provide economic value to local businesses.

The Lowline Young Designers Program is an after school program for students, using the Lowline to teach them about urban design, public space and architecture. Over 1,000 people came to visit the Young Designers exhibit, displaying the students' 3D models of what they want the Lowline to be, while it was open.

The innovation and ecological benefits of the Lowline are intertwined. James Ramsey, the Lowline's Co-Founder and Creator, developed a new solar technology system that captures sunlight above ground and funnels it underground through a system of optics. Once underground, the light is then re-distributed, using a reflective canopy, at an intensity that supports photosynthesis. This green technology will not only be a signature design feature of the Lowline, but will also serve as a model for how to light other underground and interior spaces, using solar energy. The Lowline will use resilient materials and innovative design and engineering to ensure the park is protected from severe weather and visitors are shielded from the elements. During hurricane-related flooding in the neighborhood, the Lowline site stayed dry and unharmed.

The project's design highlights the historical details of the space, while embracing innovation and the mechanisms of the technology. This melding of old and new through innovative design, is one of the signature elements of the Lowline project. The Lowline will conserve the largest remnant of Manhattan's trolley-car past, while boldly displaying the cutting edge of green technology and contemporary design.


Studio and Copyright: The Lowline, James Ramsey, New York, USA

Further information:
Zumtobel Group Award

Tridonic is sponsoring the new category of Applied innovations for the renowned Zumtobel Architecture Award. This category celebrates outstanding innovations and technological solutions which are making a pioneering contribution to a more sustainable future.