While Americans have spent most of our post-WWII era dreaming of great technological leaps into the future, one could argue that it’s only in the past few decades that we’ve been able to begin to realize what said leaps could actually look like. Gone are visions of space-age cityscapes and flying cars, as we have started revitalize our urban spaces with environmentally-sound and technology-based systems in mind.
This brings us to The Lowline project, a plan to introduce a public park in the crowded landscapes of New York City by building it under existing infrastructure. By reclaiming abandoned subway terminals, visionary Dan Barasch dreamt of a football-field-sized space full of sunlight and greenery that could serve as a year-round park to New Yorkers.
The biggest challenge is finding a way to bring the sun down below, Gizmodo explains. The Lowline development team has been working with some of the foremost technologists in this field at a company called SunPortal, a joint venture between the UK and Korea that is establishing new systems of “daylighting technology.” The ultimate goal of these products is to find unique ways of synching electronic mirrors and lenses to “bounce” the sun’s rays down to the desired location.
For now, they’re helping to find ways to bring sunshine to subway tunnels, but SunPortal’s ultimate goal would be developing fresh ways of powering and lighting urban environments with existing energies that our sun is throwing off. If it sounds a bit far-out, it is, but in our lifetimes we could potentially see these technologies powering solar systems and lighting our cities entirely.
Seeing an opportunity in the scale and ambition of the Lowline project, SunPortal reached out to them to offer a solution. The park’s original plans called for fiber-optic delivery, but the Lowline team is convinced that SunPortal is the solution to their lighting needs. Gizmodo inquired as to how the SunPortal team is testing the sun-collection system at their offices in Korea.
So, how does SunPortal’s technology work? In the case of the Lowline, it will begin on the street level above the park, with huge sunlight collectors and parabolic dishes that concentrate that sunlight, made from silver and glass that help efficiently concentrate and reflect light and repel dust that would otherwise dim the intensity of the lumens. Then, a pipe full of roughly seven-inch-wide optical lenses reflects that light downward—until it reaches the park level, where it’s diffused through a fixture.
SunPortal is pushing against about 700 ft. for projection, which would be much farther than the Lowline needs to stay bright. With success in their tests in Korean cityscapes, the Lowline team is working on ways to tweak their methods for better use in the eventual park.
There’s no date for the opening of the Lowline Park in New York, nor is there any kind of a timetable as to when SunPortal will be offering systems to the world’s city planners, but work like this certainly seems like a step in the right direction .