Puffy bushes? A candy apple stand? What cool features would you want to see at NYC's first underground park? That's what the developers of the Lowline, a subterranean park envisioned for Manhattan's Lower East Side, asked some of the people who will use it most: local youth. As part of The Lowline Young Designers Program, 95 students were tasked with translating their dreams for the park in a series of models, drawings and essays, which will be on display in an exhibit called Shaping the Lowline on view at the Mark Miller Gallery until March, 29th.
The interactive exhibit features the students’ handmade 3D models, which illustrate their most fantastical aspirations for the Lowline from trees and ponds to fountains, historic trolley cars, and even ‘rainbow laser tag’ tunnels. The overwhelming theme in the artwork and essays was that the Lowline could provide a clean and safe respite for kids to play and for teens to ‘hang,’ proving that an underground park is not only important for our environment, but for creating a youth community that is inspiring, dynamic, and filled with life.
The 2014 Lowline Young Designers Program is comprised of students representing the Asian American for Equality / Lower East Side Preparatory High School, Educational Alliance / Manny Cantor Center, Grand Street Settlement, Henry Street Settlement Abrons Art Center, University Settlement and 14th Street Y. The Lowline project has provided an unexpected learning opportunity for these students to learn urban design, civic engagement and the transformational power of science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM). A unique STEAM-focused curriculum encouraged the students to learn the fundamentals of architecture, the Lowline’s innovative solar lighting technology, and the future of green technology.
The Mark Miller Gallery exhibit also encourages the public to contribute their visions for the Lowline, with a Dreaming Tree of dangling sentiments, open to anyone as a means of voicing their dreams for the future park. The Lowline’s commitment to inclusive, innovative designs and technology is proof that the endeavor will truly be designed and envisioned by its own community, and especially by future generations who will enjoy this much-needed space for years to come. One local student, Nick Chan, summed up this initiative with one sentiment: “Green. That’s all we need.”
Images by Laura Mordas-Schenkein