The New York based firm RAAD is developing exciting new ideas for a park located three stories under street level in New York City. RAAD is challenging the current perception of parks and public open space. After the success of the Highline designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, James Corner, and Piet Oudolf, RAAD is proposing a subterranean park system known as the Delancey Underground which is gaining recognition as “The Lowline.”
Opened in 1903 and abandoned in 1948, the ghostly station stands as a reminder of New York’s historic trolley days. Waiting for the Essex subway station, one can gaze across to the abandoned underground expanse. The Trolley cars were used to transport Brooklynites to Manhattan and vice versa, but in the late 40’s the trolley lanes on the Williamsburg Bridge were converted to car lanes and the terminal was left abandoned. Though the current condition of the site is grim and dark, James Ramsey of RAAD and Dan Barasch believe the site has incredible potential. They see the transformation of the space as a way to enhance the neighborhood and ultimately lead to a revitalization of the area. From an interview conducted by ArchDaily, James Ramsey comments, “From the perspective of someone whose architecture office is just down the street, it’s exciting that we may be able to revitalize our community by completely rethinking how public spaces are created.”
Managed by the MTA (Metropolitian Transportation Authority) the project is part of a 1.5 acre renewal project known as SPUR (Seward Park Urban Renewal). The revitalization of the Trolley station will benefit adjacent buildings by providing access and acting as a courtyard for employees. Peter Hine from MTA has produced a short film that walks through the current condition of the space. Along the way he points out the historic tracks, cobblestones, trolley wire, and old dispatch booth. MTA seeks inventive solutions that will change the atmosphere and function of the underground space. One of Hine’s preferred ideas involves retrofitting the dispatch booth into a DJ booth and the adjacent area into a night club/bar.
Though ideas and program continue to morph, Ramsey and Barasch see the greatest opportunity in a public park system. However, the site poses many challenges. One of the major challenges is introducing natural light into the space. RAAD has developed an innovative solution that lets in light using fiber-optic technology. Allowing light into the cavity will increase safety, use, and growth of the park system. Though there are still many hurdles to climb, Ramsey and Barasch are confident that the Lowline will one day become a reality.