Co-visioning the future of a neighborhood park

When the Lowline was proposed in 2012, the idea was unconventional. An abandoned trolley terminal in Lower Manhattan would be transformed into the world’s first underground park. Residents were both intrigued and skeptical: What would it be like? Would it be enjoyable? Safe? Accessible? How might this park serve the neighborhood, and not just be another tourist attraction? The Lowline project team knew it needed community support for the future of this shared public space—not just for buy-in, but for building. So, the Lowline partnered with Openbox to find a way to help the community see the park’s potential.

Openbox created a film to tell the story of the Lowline, and designed multiple interactive exhibits that invited residents and visitors to contribute their visions for the Lowline.


Openbox’s approach was to both showcase the neighborhood’s ambition for the park, as well as involve the residents in co-creating its development. We transformed the work of the Young Designers Program—an urban design and public policy program for neighborhood youth—into an interactive exhibit called “Shaping the Lowline”, and we created “Live/Work/Play”, an exhibit where residents can string together the locations of where they live, work and play on a map of New York City, creating a tangible demonstration of how their daily trajectories overlapped with those of their neighbors and with the future site of the park.

In ten days, over 700 people visited the interactive exhibits installed at a local art gallery, where they viewed the community’s ideas for the park and added their own.

(1/3) The event was mostly attended by members of the LES community.
(2/3) Live/Work/Play, the community mapping exhibit.
(3/3) The exhibit showcased the work of the Young Designers, who imagined the future possibilities for the Lowline space.