Ramsey’s initial vision was to use new solar technology to turn an underground trolly terminal into a park, but it has come to encompass much more. Soon, the Lowline Labs, a scientific laboratory, will test the solar technology they’ve been researching and developing on actual plant life.
“There are a number of very technical obstacles we’ve encountered that are very serious,” Barasch explains. “How do you bring natural sunlight into an underground space? How do you test materials and processes that previously did not exist? Ramsey has been leading several years of scientific discovery and technical design, seeking out and working with partners, advisors, designers and engineers from New York to California to Korea.
The co-founders have collaborated to bring the project from the idea phase to a demo phase, and ultimately, they hope, to fruition. This collaboration has been a deeply personal one—as Barasch puts it, “We both share a passion for groundbreaking technology and a shared love of New York—and James and his team bring a truly inspiring design aesthetic to bring the vision to life.”
Over the course of their scientific developments and discussions with the city on securing the location, came another obstacle. They decided to make their organization not-for-profit, which would ultimately allow the finished product to be available to everyone, not just corporations looking to monetize it, but then how do you raise funds? “How do you get people excited about an idea when they can’t see the space, or have any kind of comparative experience to relate the idea to?” he asks. Barasch, like the rest of us, observed that underground stations are not particularly beautiful. To inspire New Yorkers, James Ramsey and his Raad Studio partner, Kibum Park, developed a series of renderings and videos that showcased the full potential of the environment—and they began to win people over.
After a first successfully funded Kickstarter, they’re now on to the second, which will directly help fund the Lowline Lab. “This is the lynchpin in convincing the city and community that the Lowline will and must move ahead,” he explains. This six-month lab will test their solar technology, in conjunction with their subterranean landscape design. And if the light technology is successful, they are one stop closer to creating a park that will be just as alive and welcoming in the dead of a New York City winter as it is in the spring and summer months. We’d call that a bright future.