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Wanderlust

Inside The Lab Where Plants Learn To Grow In The Dark

We take a tour of the Lowline Lab, a thriving concrete jungle grown in the dark.

It's one of the few ideas that is dystopian and utopian at the same time. The Lowline team wants to turn an abandoned, underground trolley station on NYC’s Lower East Side into a thriving park, filled with living plants.

Funding and city approval are still being worked out for a 2021 opening. But there's another, arguably bigger obstacle to building the thing: Plants didn’t evolve to grow underground without sunlight.

So at the Lowline Lab—which is really just a very dark warehouse—designers, lighting engineers, and landscape architects are proving their concept before moving underground, redirecting sunlight through tubes to shine onto plants that would otherwise have no source of energy.

I expected to find a load of browning, decaying shrubbery. Instead, the greenery was thriving. (And those light tubes? Their beams are blindingly bright if you stand in their way.) Now, the team is finding out just how far they can go in growing plants with light tubes alone. Watch the video closely, and you’ll spot a pineapple planted amid the ferns. Hope Lena Dunham likes piña coladas.

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