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How NYC’s First Underground Park Will Capture Sunlight

Turning an abandoned New York City trolley station from underground derelict into a verdant park has obvious appeal. Who doesn’t love reclaimed spaces, public fraternity, and promethean wresting of heavenly light cast down by modern technology? The Lowline project ticked enough boxes to become an early Kickstarter success story. Now four years, a human-scale mockup, and one Lena Dunham support video later, the team behind the project is back on Kickstarter to raise another $200,000 to build a working prototype of their sunlight capture system. Don’t feel guilty if you can’t spare a dollar: they’ve already reached their goal.


The technical details have changed: the original concept anticipated using fiber-optic filaments to channel light from collectors at street level to the galleries below. But after the initial campaign was successful, the South Korean firm Sun Portal stepped in to offer a different lighting system, obviating the need for the Lowline’s stewards to engineer their own. The new system has been proven to work. A version was successfully deployed in South Korea’s oldest hydroelectric plant, replacing electric lighting with 100% organic photons casting a 100 lux glow in an eerie yellow-green. (At least during the day.)

Screenshot: via Sunportal

Will the Sun Portal system provide sunlight of proper spectrum and intensity to sustain an underground oasis all year long? We’ll know next spring. The Lowline’s warehouse-based prototype will start operating this September, right when the easy summer sunshine gives way to grey New York City winter skies.JJ