The Lowline is still a few years in the works, but until the proposed Lower East Side underground park becomes a reality, New Yorkers can get a preview of what's to come.
The Lowline Lab is a six-month laboratory and exhibit two blocks from the site of the future Lowline, which will be in an abandoned underground trolley terminal.
While not underground, the dark site is set up to mimic the conditions of the Lowline, including piping in sunlight from outside and growing a variety of plants indoors.
Since it opened in mid-October, thousands of visitors of all ages have stopped by to see the experiment in cutting-edge solar technology and horticultural research in action.
"This is an important milestone," said Dan Barasch, who co-founded the Lowline with James Ramsey. "It's a cool opportunity for people to check out what we're doing as we build the most beautiful and effective underground park."
A series of boards detail the science at work in the lab, from why natural light is important to grow plants to how it is being collected on the roof and distributed below. Then, visitors can see the science in action, with sunlight piped in to grow a landscape of 3,500 plants from 50 different species, including a variety of fern and moss as well as bromeliad, mushrooms, mint, strawberries and pineapple, to see what might do well in the future Lowline.
The Lowline Lab is open to the public on weekends, as well during the week to school groups through its Young Designers program.
Since opening, the Lowline Lab has drawn parallels to the movie "The Martian," which is a celebration of human ingenuity and science fiction based on real science.
"It's using science in a fun way," said Barasch of the Lowline Lab. "We're hoping to get as many different kids as possible in."