The Lowline in New York City

The Lowline in New York City technology demonstration on Broome and Essex Streets photography Straight Up, September 15, 2012, by Cameron R Neilson

My parents live in damp Portland, OR and for years my mom has taken great pride in cultivating, as odd as it may sound, a moss garden.  As a kid, it was quite a treat to walk barefoot, on the soft moss, lay down on its deep green quilt, and look upwards through the big leaf maples to the sky above.  That memory was sparked this past weekend in the lower east side of New York City at a converted warehouse building on Broome and Essex Streets with a visual demonstration for the much anticipated Lowline park.

Presented by AUDI in collaboration with Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation GSAPP, the demonstration runs through September 29th and is free to the public (although a suggested donation is always appreciated).  Besides presenting the vision for the abandoned Delancey Underground space as an indoor park, the show demonstrates a key piece of technology–reflecting and channeling sunlight to illuminate the space below.  In practice, the light is enough for plants, trees, and yes moss to grow.  It’s a project I’ve been following for months, and I hustled over as quickly as I could on Saturday morning to check out the opening day.

I had the chance to speak with  co-founder and Creator of the Lowline project, architect James Ramsey, who told me as long as the sun is shining its “always noon on the Lowline.”  The unique array of panels, light reflectors, and accumulators always brings light in.  I can attest, the light coming through the reflective channels is very bright!   I carefully positioned my camera to shoot straight up, and (shocker) got some pretty interesting flare.  I knew the light would be bright, but sunlight-bright I didn’t anticipate:  you win some, you lose some, and continue learning (even when you think you know it all).

I deliberated for three days whether to post this image.  First, it’s not entirely in keeping with the exterior subject that I’ve been covering between negative space and the buildings, and second, it’s not entirely accessible. I was granted special permission to position the camera directly below the focal point for the light. Photographically it’s probably not the best angle when the sun is out–who says you can’t photograph into the sun–but I had to do it because it’s straight up on the Lowline.

Regardless, I believe the subject in this image, the Lowline, is greater than any bad or amazing photograph can demonstrate.  Below are additional images I made to satisfy my urge to support this project and give a more clear example of the concept.  Hopefully James Ramsey and co-founder Dan Barasch’s vision will soon become reality and at least one abandoned section of NYC’s concrete jungle will become a bit softer, brighter, and reminiscent of the time we could lay down on our back, chill out, and look skyward.

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