Above and Below
You’d be hard-pressed to find a designer with a more above-ground past and subterranean present than Raad Studio founder James Ramsey. The Yale School of Architecture alum’s initial gig was as a NASA satellite engineer, a stark contrast to his current charge as the mind behind The Lowline, what will eventually be the world’s first underground flora and fauna park—thanks to a whole lot of solar-paneled circuitry—located within the abandoned Williamsburg Bridge Trolley Terminal.
“There’s a cool hand-pumped cart down there, like the one Wile E. Coyote used,” says Ramsey of the many unearthed treasures within the forgotten station. In Oct. 2015, Ramsey and Lowline co-founder Dan Barasch opened their proof-of-concept weekends-only exhibit, the Lowline Lab, inside an abandoned market on Essex Street. The space is designed to test light-gathering techniques and other theories, and more than 100,000 people have visited so far. The Lowline park itself is still years—and dozens of city approvals—away, but last July, the project got its first thumbs up. Ramsey and Barasch now are tasked with raising $10 million and completing early schematics.
Subterranian work isn’t Ramsey’s only area of interest—the architect also has many residential and commerical projects. His first architecture project was designing and building Moby’s New York City apartment, and since then, Raad has acquired some of NYC’s most influential people, from celebrities to CEOs, as clients, and they’re currently completing about 15 residential projects in and around New York, each with unique features like a 5-story bookcase and a 14-foot movable glass wall. Internationally, they’re working to refurbish a historical Brutalist building on the Thames in London and on a cultural center in Seoul, Korea, among other projects.
As for Ramsey’s innovation wishes for 2017 and beyond? You can take the boy out of NASA, but... “If we could make some real progress on the Hyperloop high speed rail this year, I’d be totally excited,” he says. “And if someone could take up the banner for the Space Elevator, that would be even better.”