News and Events

NYC exhibit brings daylight underground

Rebecca Maloney Rebecca Maloney Americas Press Office ,Boston
12 September 2012

Starting on September 15, “Imagining the Lowline,” a free exhibition in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, will showcase Arup’s research into a proposal for the world’s first underground park.

The exhibit demonstrates how the team’s system for collecting sunlight and channeling it belowground can create an attractive public space and enable plant growth.

Arup has been heavily involved in the project since approaching the architects about partnering with them to provide technical services. Our multidisciplinary team – structural, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and geotechnical engineers; fire/life safety, code, and acoustic consultants; and lighting and tunnel designers – has provided critical feasibility studies and innovative explorations of design possibilities. The current exhibit transforms an abandoned warehouse in the Lower East Side into a life-size replica of the proposed Lowline. The main focal point is a 35-foot-wide canopy designed and executed by Raad Studio and industrial designer Ed Jacobs in collaboration with Arup. Featuring 6 “sunbeamers” – devices that reflect sunlight into a parallel column, then direct it down a highly reflective tube – the canopy directs sunlight to a mockup park containing plants that can be cultivated in low light conditions.

Arup worked in collaboration with the canopy team and University of British Columbia physics professor Lorne Whitehead to model and test the sunbeamer devices and canopy materials in order to optimize the potential for sunlight collection and redistribution.

Our structural engineers also worked with Jacobs to create a steel frame that straddles the roof’s skylight to support the aluminum canopy (which is made of over 600 unique laser-cut aluminum pieces) and sunbeamers. The frame bears on the roof through multiple layers of timber and sand, eliminating the need to anchor into the existing structure. To ease construction, segments of the mockup structure were fabricated in the shop and assembled onsite.

The exhibition also features a 3D immersive ambisonic audio installation created by our acoustic consultants. Twenty-four targeted loudspeakers and four subwoofers play a sound art composition by Arup acoustician Anne Guthrie, who blended the sounds of the city’s subway trains and other typical scenes from around the proposed site. Realistic sound effects were achieved using proprietary SoundLab technologies.

During one of the events to be held in the space (a children’s day in which local schools will visit), the piece will be made interactive via an iPad that controls the localizations of various sounds in the composition.

The exhibit takes place in Essex Street Warehouse, located on the corner of Broome and Essex Streets. A full calendar of open hours and special programming can be found on the Lowline website.