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Sneak Peek: “Imagining the Lowline” at Essex Market

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Here it is.  We just returned from a press preview of “Imagining the Lowline,” the exhibition coming to the Essex Street Market for two weeks beginning Saturday.  Up until now, all we’ve had are renderings depicting what a park in an abandoned trolley station below Delancey Street might look like.  Now visitors to the public installation will be able to see and touch real trees and grass growing with the aid of natural sunlight being channeled into the darkened back half of the abandoned market building.

The exhibition is designed to answer one of the major questions remaining about the audacious project: will the solar technology developed by Lowline co-creator James Ramsey work on a large scale?  More details in a moment. But first things first — more photos:

This afternoon we spoke with industrial designer Ed Jacobs, who along with engineering firm Arup and physics professor Lorne Whitehead, created the sunlight system. It consists of a series of solar collection devices that channel the light into the market space where it’s reflected on a special 35-foot-wide aluminum canopy.  He described the canopy somewhat like putting together a large puzzle. Each piece of metal was individually carved at a facility in Brooklyn.

At today’s preview, Jacobs was available to answer questions, as was Misty Gonzalez, an environmental designer who chose the plant life for the exhibition.  The mini-park consists of trees, moss and fungi — including Japanese splurge and small edible mushrooms — designed to thrive under the canopy.  The idea, she said, is to help visitors understand the wide range of greenery that could sprout in underground spaces throughout New York City.

In a separate room, there’s a dramatic 50-foot-long model of Manhattan hanging from the ceiling.   The model, commissioned by Audi (The Lowline’s first corporate sponsor) was developed by Columbia University’s architecture school.  It depicts the large number of unused spaces beneath the city and offers a never-before-seen view of every subway line under Manhattan (we’ll have more on this part of the project in a future story).

In conjunction with the exhibition, the Lowline hired consulting firm HR&A Advisors to perform a feasibility study. According to a news release, “the study has found that the vision of converting the former trolley terminal to a great public gathering space with recreational, cultural and community spaces will be feasible and constructable…” The release also indicated, ‘the founders of the Lowline are preparing a business plan that envisions development of the Lowline through a public-private partnership.”

This afternoon Lowline co-founder Dan Barasch said he hopes the exhibition proves that the team is earnest and serious about creating an underground park on the Lower East Side. His partner, James Ramsey told us it is a “bit overwhelming” finally seeing a version of the Lowline come to life.  While he believes the full-scale project will become a reality, Ramsey said that on another level he hopes people who come to see the exhibit bask in a “ephemeral moment” and that they always remember those “two weeks when the Lowline came to town.”

Here’s the schedule of events for “Imaging the Lowline,” which takes place in the Essex Market building on the south side of Delancey Street:

  • Saturday, September 15th: 12-6pm
    Launch Day: Free and open to public
  • Sunday, September 16th: 12-6pm
    “Day Life” street fair:  Free and open to public
  • Monday- Tuesday, September 17-18
    Closed for Rosh Hashana
  • Wednesday, September 19th: 12-6pm
    Free and open to public
  • Thursday, September 20th: 12-6pm
    Free and open to public
  • Friday, September 21th: 12-6pm
    Free and open to public
  • Saturday, September 22th: 12-6pm
    Free and open to public
  • Sunday, September 23rd: 12-6pm
    “Day Life” street fair: free and open to public




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  1. Why not make the “Low Line” into beautiful bus station for the interstate buses that are now stopping on the streets above?

  2. We don’t need another trendy park for hipsters & tourists. We need a Chinatown bus terminal. And we need it now. Build it at the Delancey Trolley Terminal.

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