This week New York news is filled with reports on a small plane carrying four locals that has disappeared near the Bahamas. That plane, the Daily News revealed yesterday, was ferrying the children of a New York designer who's gained recognition for his work on the world's first subterranean park on the Lower East Side. The park, called the Lowline, was conceived by James Ramsey, founding principal of Raad Studio, a New York firm that Ramsey founded in 2004. Still in its concept phase, the Lowline—which may be installed underneath the Delancy Street/Essex Street subway station—received preliminary approval from the city last year. “I lost what I loved more than anything,” Ramsey told the Daily News. “I keep hoping it’s not real and I’ll wake up. Wouldn’t wish this pain on the worst person in the world.” Ramsey's ex-partner, Jennifer Blumin, was flying in the aircraft with her boyfriend, Nathan Ulrich, along with her and Ramsey's two young sons. Ulrich, the pilot, was guiding the group to Florida from Puerto Rico when the plane he was flying disappeared from the radar almost 40 miles east of Eleuthera, Bahamas. Blumin, an events space planner, is the CEO of Skylight Studios, a Tribeca business that turns distinctive spaces into venues for concerts, runway shows, and design fairs. After finding debris that may match the aircraft, the Coast Guard is continuing its search; so far, the agency has combed over 8,200 square miles.
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This is the second in a series of guests posts that feature Archtober Building of the Day tours! Most tried-and-true New Yorkers, and perhaps even our more perceptive visitors, are captivated by the city’s pervasive promise of secret: The sense that behind any door or down any street, you just might discover the next big thing—a tiny piece of the city as of yet unconquered. For James Ramsey and Dan Barasch, that fantasy is increasingly becoming a reality thanks to the Lowline Lab, an experimental space on New York’s Lower East Side that offers a taste of the duo’s larger plan to transform an underground trolley terminal used in the 1930’s into a community garden and gathering place. So far, two ambitious, record-setting Kickstarter campaigns have led to the creation of the 1,100-square-foot lab located at 140 Essex Street, inside an aboveground former warehouse less than two blocks from the proposed site of the future Lowline. At the start of the Archtober tour, Ramsey, co-founder and creator of the Lowline and principal of Raad Studio, explained his initial attraction to the “feeling of a raw, archaeological site” which, since the Lab’s opening in October 2015, has sustained more than 50 unique plant varieties and over 3,000 individual plants including tomatoes, mushrooms, and strawberries. Ramsey first began imagining how solar technology could be used to grow plants to fill unlit spaces in 2008, when he learned about the trolley terminal and was awed by what he calls “60,000 square feet of unused space, hiding in plain sight for decades.” Ramsey led the group through a row of subway turnstiles placed at the lab’s entrance into a welcome area that explains the history of the site and the lab’s solar technology. Fundamentally, a system of tracking mirrors on the building’s roof are programmed to rotate in order to capture natural sunlight through the course of the day, explained Ramsey. The light gets reflected into smaller parabolic reflectors that concentrate the sunlight to nearly 30 times its natural intensity, while more mirrors and tubes direct the light onto a parabolic solar canopy constructed in aluminum that moderates and tempers the light at the various ratios needed to sustain living plants. “In a sense,” says Ramsey, “the garden is a mathematical graph of light, expressed via species.”
Of course, it takes a few more components to keep the garden flourishing, including a misting system, hoses, hand watering, and grow lights engineered to control the size, shape, color, texture and nutrition of the plants. The landscape design is a collaboration with Signe Nielsen of Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects, while John Mini Distinctive Landscapes built the infrastructure and sourced the plants, which they still maintain. Monitoring is a key aspect of the project, as Ramsey and team are working to measure the impact of the spectrum, intensity, and distribution of the light. This data will then help them select the best plants for the ultimate Lowline.Before sending the tour group up a flight of stairs and short ladder to see the roof’s solar technology first hand, Ramsey addressed questions and hinted at his team’s next steps, which include securing additional necessary funding from donors and grants and waiting for the city to finish constructing a wall inside the subway that would help open up the Lowline’s future site to the public. If all goes according to plan, Ramsey anticipates construction to begin before 2020. Until then, if you missed our Archtober tour of the Lowline Lab, the site is currently open to the public on weekends through March 2017! About the author: Meghan Edwards is the Director of Digital Content and Strategy for AIANY and the Center for Architecture. Previously, she was the site editor for Interior Design magazine, where she was an editor for over 9 years following stints at Metropolis magazine and Christie's auction house. Meghan graduated from Brown University in 2006 with a bachelor's degree in the History of Art and Architecture.
Last week New York City deputy mayor Alicia Glen and New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) president Maria Torres-Springer announced that the city has selected the Lowline to officially occupy vacant trolley tracks under the Lower East Side as the world's first underground park. Conceived by James Ramsey of raad studio and Dan Barasch, the Lowline will use a custom solar array to channel natural light into the windowless space, which sits adjacent to the J/M/Z lines at Essex Street. (The Architect's Newspaper toured the Lowline Lab, the park's freakily lush demo and educational space, last fall.) At the Lab, an above-ground solar array refracted onto a paneled canopy provides different light intensities to grow everything from pineapples to moss. Since its opening, the lab has hosted 2,000 schoolchildren and 70,000 visitors, an early indication of its potential popularity (it is slated to operate through March of next year). Last fall, NYCEDC, in conjunction with the MTA, put out a request for expressions of interest (RFEI) to develop the Williamsburg Bridge Trolley Terminal, a 60,000-square-foot space below Delancey Street between Clinton and Norfolk streets, under a long-term lease. The RFEI stipulated that the developers must implement a community engagement plan that includes quarterly Community Engagement Committee meetings as well as five to ten design charettes; complete a schematic design to submit for approval in the next 12 months; and raise $10 million over the next 12 months. "Every designer dreams of doing civic work that contributes to society and to the profession. Over the last 8 years, we just stuck to what we thought was a great idea that could make our city and our community better. We're thrilled to move ahead on designing and building a space that people will enjoy for generations to come," Ramsey said in a press release. Principal Signe Nielsen of Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects is landscape designer for the project, working with John Mini Distinctive Landscapes. The Lowline's creators and backers hope that the park will showcase adaptive reuse possibilities for vestigial spaces, as well as provide the densely-populated neighborhood with additional green space. “We couldn't be more thrilled for this opportunity to turn a magical dream into reality," said Barasch, the project's executive director. “The transformation of an old, forgotten trolley terminal into a dynamic cultural space designed for a 21st century city is truly a New York story. We know with input from the community and the city, we can make the Lowline a unique, inspiring space that everyone can enjoy." (Courtesy raad studio)
Meet The Green Line: How Perkins Eastman would remake Broadway through Manhattan into a 40-block linear park
By now, the "Bilbao Effect" is metonymy for a culture-led revitalization of a postindustrial city driven by a single institution housed in a starchitect-designed complex. The wild success of Manhattan's High Line generates regional seismic effects—the Lowline, the QueensWay, and the Lowline: Bronx Edition all cite the high queen of linear parks as their inspiration. Upping the ante, Perkins Eastman unfurls the Green Line, a plan to convert one of New York's busiest streets into a park. The Green Line would overtake Broadway for 40 blocks, from Columbus Circle to Union Square, connecting Columbus Circle, Times Square, Herald Square, Madison Square, and Union Square with pedestrian and cyclists' paths. Except for emergency vehicles, automobiles would be banned from the Green Line. The proposal has precedent in Bloomberg-era "rightsizing" of Broadway. Traffic calming measures closed Times Square to cars, increased the number of pedestrian-only spaces, and installed bike lanes along Broadway, reducing vehicular traffic overall. In conversation with Dezeen, Perkins Eastman principal Jonathan Cohn noted that "green public space is at a premium in the city, and proximity to it is perhaps the best single indicator of value in real estate. [The] Green Line proposes a new green recreational space that is totally integrated with the form of the city." Value, moreover, isn't linked exclusively to price per square foot. Replacing two miles of asphalt with bioswales and permeable paving could help regulate stormwater flow for the city's overburdened stormwater management infrastructure. Right now, rain falling to the west of Broadway discharges, untreated, into the Hudson, while east of Broadway, stormwater gushes straight into the Hudson. What do you think: is the Green Line on Broadway feasible, or totally fantastical?
Call it High Line fever: since the first leg of James Corner and Diller Scofidio + Renfro's High Line debuted in 2009, High Line–like projects have popped up all over the city and across the country. Now, not ten miles from the original, the Bronx may be slated for its very own rail-to-park conversion. Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. has asked Mayor Bill de Blasio to transform an unused slice of below grade train track in Mott Haven into a "lowline." The block-long site, bounded by Brook Avenue, East 156th Street, St. Ann's Avenue, and East 150th Street, is owned by CSX. In order to reclaim the space for parkland, the city would need to buy or seize the land from the railroad company. On a visit to the site in September, Mayor de Blasio deplored the condition of the trash strewn corridor, which doubles as a homeless encampment. Soon after the mayor's visit, city workers cleared out the belongings of the residents and removed debris from the site. Sandwiched between schools and their athletic fields, the lowline would be adjacent to mixed income housing projects Melrose Commons and Via Verde.
A jury of architects, landscape architects, critics, educators, and planners has named the 35 winning projects of this year's AIA New York Chapter Design Awards. "Each winning project, granted either an 'Honor' or 'Merit' award, was chosen for its design quality, response to its context and community, program resolution, innovation, thoughtfulness, and technique," the AIA said in a statement. "Submitted projects had to be completed by members of the AIA New York Chapter, architects/designers practicing in New York, or be New York projects designed by architects/designers based elsewhere." Take a look at the winning teams in the projects and urban design categories below. Honor Awards Ennead Architects Rethinking Refugee Communities
From the architects: "Can refugee settlements be a benefit to the host community rather than a burden? How can shared resources be employed to benefit both populations as well as foster a more sustainable solution? These questions arise when rethinking a new type of refugee settlement design process that fosters shared infrastructure, resources and economic exchange between incoming refugees and local residents. By creating spatial opportunities for the two populations to develop a beneficial relationship, refugee settlements can enrich the opportunities available to refugees creating more sustainable solutions during the refugees’ displacement."The Living Hy-Fi Queens, NY
From the architects: "Hy-Fi offers a captivating physical environment and a new paradigm for sustainable architecture. In 2014, we tested and refined a new low-energy building material, manufactured 10,000 compostable bricks, constructed a 13-meter-tall tower, hosted public cultural events for three months, disassembled the structure, composted the bricks, and returned the resulting soil to local community gardens. This successful experiment offers many possibilities for future construction."MERIT AWARDS BIG – Bjarke Ingels Group Project: Smithsonian Institution South Mall Campus Master Plan Location: Washington, DC CDR Studio Governor's Cup Pavilion New York, NY OBRA Architects Church in the Arctic Tana Bru, Norway raad The Lowline New York, NY
Lowline boosters James Ramsey and Dan Barasch spoke with the Wall Street Journal this week, shedding light on a few economic details surrounding what could become New York City's first subterranean park, built in an abandoned trolley terminal owned by the MTA underneath Delancey Street in the Lower East Side. Project co-founders Ramsey, an architect and principal at RAAD Studio, and Barasch have most recently been working on creating a full-scale mock-up of their fiber-optic skylight that will bring natural daylight to the cavernous underground space after raising $155,000 on Kickstarter. The team is now promoting the park armed with a new economic impact summary, claiming that it will add value to the adjacent Seward Park Urban Renewal Area (SPURA). Specifically, Ramsey and Barasch argue that building the park would boost SPURA land values by $10 to $20 million and generate up to $10 million in taxes over the next 30 years. The Lowline also revealed its estimated budget, clocking in somewhere between $44 and $72 million to be paid for by a combination of fundraising, donations, and tax credits. If all goes according to plan, the Lowline could be financially self-sufficient, with a $2 to $4 million operating budget paid for by special events and commercial space. Uncertainty still looms over project, however, as the MTA hasn't agreed that the space will be allowed to be converted into a park.
A 600-panel tessellation spreads sunlight undergroundBy now you know about the Lowline, the ambitious project to turn the 1.5 acre abandoned trolley terminal under Delancey Street in New York City into a public park. In just two weeks the project's founders, Dan Barasch and architect James Ramsey, will unveil a preview of the remote skylight system designed to transmit sunlight into the Delancey Underground in a life-size, fully functional installation currently being built into the Essex Street Market. Ramsey designed the remote skylights with a network of fiber optic cables that channel light gathered by a solar collection dish down below ground where it's dispersed. To make the most of the available sunlight, Ramsey enlisted the help of industrial designer Edward Jacobs, the former head of design at Confederate Motors, the high-end motorcycle company, who Ramsey describes as "a visionary and pretty much the most talented guy I've ever met." To disperse the sunlight as far as possible, Jacobs developed a tessellated canopy system made up of 600 ⅛ inch-thick hexagonal and triangular panels laser cut from clear anodized aluminum and bent in a hydraulic press. In an effort to maximize the sunlight's reach, the tessellated curvature is so specialized that no two panels are exactly alike. To get the shape and size of each panel just right, Jacobs worked with the engineering group Arup on materials testing and light readings, noting that 3D rendering only goes so far because "the ideas of light perception amount and reflectance can be quite counter intuitive." The panels, which are fabricated by Milgo Bufkin in Brooklyn, are labeled according to their position in the overall structure and screwed together with fold-over tabs on each side. The canopy is then attached to a four-cable truss system Jacobs developed so the entire 1,350-pound unit can be easily raised and lowered for maintenance. A few cables will also be attached to the outer edges of the canopy to eliminate any possibility of sag between the structural rib span, completing a system that Jacobs describes as "a combination of cable slings, clevises, electrical winches and safety hooks." Though Jacobs had just two months to design, fabricate and install the canopy, he doesn't cite time limitations as the project's biggest challenge, but tolerance. "The tolerances held by laser cutting and bending are vastly different than CNC work. You must design in leeway for movement and inconsistency from part to part. The accuracy of the processes can be up to 30 to 60 times different so one's approach and design must reflect this need for flexibility." Once he had the tolerance of the structure worked out, Jacobs had to make the Essex Street Market feel like a dark, abandoned trolley terminal. To simulate the light quality of the Delancey Underground in a bright and airy space, all the skylights were blacked out with cladding and heavy gauge opaque plastics. Then the remote skylights were installed in conjunction with six Sunbeams, circular light transmitting components manufactured by the Canadian solar technology company, SunCentral. Each of the Sunbeams has an internal GPS calibrated to follow the direction of the sun, ensuring that they transmit as much sunlight as possible during the day. For the days when New York is less than sunny there's a back up system of "sensor-based energy efficient electrical options that will be programmed to balance light levels constantly." The canopy will first be put to use on September 13th, the night of the unveiling, during which guests will shade their eyes from the simulated sunlight and revel at the prospect of strolling underground in sun dappled light in the dead of winter.