Lowlife Lab

Many people are familiar with New York City’s Highline, which has become a really popular spot with tourists and residents. It it is really cool, and beautiful all year round, in the dead of winter and in bloom. Because of the Highline’s success, some people came up with the idea of the Lowline. The Lowline would make use of of the abandoned Williamsburg Bridge trolley terminal under Delancey Street, which is right next to the Essex Street subway station. However, the somewhat radical idea for the Lowline is that it would make use of sunlight to light the space, which is completely underground. To help design and work out issues with this idea, the Lowline Lab was created. It is now closed, but luckily about a month ago I got to tour it.

I encourage your to click the hyperlink to my photos of the Williamsburg Bridge trolley terminal under Delancey Street because in order to comprehend the challenge of this project, you really need to see the space as it is now.

Delancey Street with Williamsburg Bridge in background. Essex Street subway station entrance can be seen on left. Abandoned trolley terminal is right below street.

Delancey Street with Williamsburg Bridge in background. Essex Street subway station entrance can be seen on left. Abandoned trolley terminal is right below street.

Sunlight collectors on roof

Sunlight collectors on roof

Sunlight brought in from smaller vertical tube and reflected into sideways tube

Sunlight brought in from smaller vertical tube and reflected into sideways tube

Sunlight brought in vertically from roof collector and then reflected in sideways tube

Sunlight brought in vertically from roof collector and then reflected in sideways tube

Ceiling with tubes outputting sunlight and reflectors below

Ceiling with tubes outputting sunlight and reflectors below

Display of plants and ceiling reflecting sunlight

Display of plants and ceiling reflecting sunlight

Display of plants, including vertical plant elements, and ceiling reflecting sunlight

Display of plants, including vertical plant elements, and ceiling reflecting sunlight

Display of plants and ceiling reflecting sunlight

Display of plants and ceiling reflecting sunlight

Plants that may be used

Plants that may be used

Icebergs DC

In what is now an annual tradition, the National Building Museum creates a fun, exhibit or installation in which children and adults can play. Last year it was The Beach, and the year before it was The Big Maze. This year, it is Icebergs. The museum’s great hall is filled with structures resembling icebergs, and blue mesh surrounds them to denote the water. The “water line” is about two stories high with the tops of many icebergs popping above it, like real icebergs. The exhibit is complete with an underwater bridge between two icebergs, which leads to two slides. White bean bags are scattered about, so you can sit down and relax.

Under the water

Under the water

Gorgeous giant iceberg

Gorgeous giant iceberg

Outside the exhibit, looking through the blue mesh

Outside the exhibit, looking through the blue mesh

Ice shoots

Ice shoots

On observation pier looking down to water

On observation pier looking down to water

On observation pier looking down to water

On observation pier looking down to water

Under the water

Under the water

Cass

To wrap up my trip to scenic railroads in West Virginia, my tour group visited Cass, where the Cass Scenic Railroad is based. Cass is now a state park, but it once was a company town, built to support the logging operations and mill. The company store and many of the  company houses are still standing. All the company houses were built the same and are basic, yet today, they still look charming. Cass was famous for having wooden sidewalks on all its streets. The town still does have wooden sidewalks, but obviously they are not the original ones. The mill burnt down, but remnants of it still remain. A newer train shop is there also, and if you are lucky like me, you can get a tour.

Cats company houses

Cass company houses

Cass jail in the basement of the building that has the mayor's office and council chambers on the top floor. [There is a modern day political joke in there.]

Cass jail in the basement of the building that has the mayor’s office and council chambers on the top floor. [There is a modern day political joke in there.]

The nicest house in Cass, originally built for the company owners.

The nicest house in Cass, originally built for the company owners.

Cass Company Store

Cass Company Store

The ovens of the former mill. In the third oven, stacks of wood are present. The mill was closed so suddenly that the wood was left still in the over.

The ovens of the former mill. In the third oven, stacks of wood are present. The mill was closed so suddenly that the wood was left still in the oven.

The ovens of the former mill.

The ovens of the former mill.

Part of the former mill

Part of the former mill

Mechanical rolling parts of the former mill. A metal saw used to cut the wood is in there.

Mechanical rolling parts of the former mill. A metal saw used to cut the wood is in there.

Part of the former mill

Part of the former mill

Coal pile to supply the Cass Scenic Railroad train

Coal pile to supply the Cass Scenic Railroad train

Inside the Cass shop

Inside the Cass shop

Inside the Cass shop with many machines to make replacement parts that can no longer be bought

Inside the Cass shop with many machines to make replacement parts that can no longer be bought

A short video of the Cass Scenic Railroad rolling to the station and stopping to pick up water.

High Level Pumping Station

As part of Doors Open Toronto, I visited the High Level Pumping Station. It is the oldest building in Toronto’s water supply system. The oldest part of the building dates back to 1906 with other additions added later until the final one in 1953. The building houses a vertical triple expansion steam engine from 1909 with a huge crank and flywheel, not to mention a lovely set of huge wrenches hanging next to it. The building also houses a steam-geared centrifugal pump. However neither of those are used anymore but instead have been replaced with nine electric motor-driven pumps to fulfill the pumping station’s objection of conveying drinking water to that area of Toronto.

High Level Pumping Station

High Level Pumping Station

Entrance Sign

Entrance Sign

Monitor roof allows light in and original crane can be seen in background

Monitor roof allows light in and original crane can be seen in background

Columns with pressed metal molding and tile on walls

Columns with pressed metal molding and tile on walls

1913 steam engine

1913 steam engine

1909 vertical triple-expansion steam engine

1909 vertical triple-expansion steam engine

Original steam engine gauges

Original steam engine gauges

Room with electric motor-driven pumps

Room with electric motor-driven pumps

Re-Ball

Dupont Underground is an abandoned trolley station underneath Dupont Circle that recently had a design competition to reuse a whole lot of plastic balls from National Building Museum’s The Beach. The winning entry was Raise/Raze, which formed the balls into 3 x 3 cubes that were used to build columns and walls in a portion of Dupont Underground. The structures built by the balls were rather interesting, especially when considering they were built with spheres. I also rather liked the way the cube blocks mimicked the tiles on the outer wall of the underground. IMG_6606 IMG_6612 IMG_6626 IMG_6629 IMG_6634 IMG_6638 IMG_6642 IMG_6644 IMG_6648 IMG_6653 IMG_6655 IMG_6659 IMG_6669 IMG_6672 IMG_6675 IMG_6678

Grand Avenue Bus Depot

I toured the New York MTA’s Grand Avenue Bus Depot with the New York Transit Museum. The depot is relatively new, which is evident when you are inside. I don’t know much about bus depot design, but I was astounded by the amount of ventilation in the building. Considering the number of vehicles going and in and out every day, the ventilation is needed, but still I was surprised by the amount of it. The bus depot occupies the first level of this huge building, and the second level holds the Central Maintenance facility. They are considered to be different facilities. The bus depot is, well, a depot, or parking area for when the buses are not in use. The depot also where regular maintenance is performed and everyday activities like fueling, money removal, and washing.

Multiple bays for maintenance

Multiple bays for maintenance

Regular maintenance performed on buses

Regular maintenance performed on buses

Hoses needed for normal maintenance hang from ceiling

Hoses needed for normal maintenance hang from ceiling

Lane to maintenance bays

Lanes for parking and to maintenance bays

Buses parked closely until needed

Buses parked closely until needed

I asked the facility manager what this garage style door was for. He looked at it and me and said he had never been asked that and wasn't actually sure. Leave it to me to be able to stump people.

I asked the facility manager what this garage style door was for. He looked at it and me and said he had never been asked that and wasn’t actually sure. Leave it to me to be able to stump people.

Confession: Other people in the group asked the depot manager to please let us go through bus wash, so he granted their wishes, and we all boarded a bus and went through a wash.

Bus wash

Bus wash

The ceilings and walls were almost completely filled with ventilation ducts, pipes, and conduits.

Ventilation everywhere

Ventilation everywhere

Ventilation, pipes, and conduit everywhere.

Ventilation, pipes, and conduit everywhere.

I couldn't get over the amount of conduit.

I couldn’t get over the amount of conduit.

One of my favorite parts of the tour was learning that they vacuum money out of the fare box. MTA buses only accept coin and not bills. They hook up a hose to outlet at the bottom of the fare box, and the money is vacuumed out to secure boxes where it falls into bags or some other movable containers. The staff of the facility never touches the money. Then the money is removed from the boxes on a regular basis by armed staff. I think it is because I have a B.S. in chemical engineering that I found this so fascinating. We learned about pipes and other conduits and pump design for fluids. Coins are obviously not fluids. I am intrigued by the design that would be needed by items that are going to bounce around and not flow the way a fluid does. Also the pressure needed to pull coins out must be interesting.

The outlet at the bottom of the fare box is where a hose is inserted to vacuum out the money. They vacuum the money to a secure box.

The outlet at the bottom of the fare box is where a hose is inserted to vacuum out the money. They vacuum the money to a secure box.

Hoses and vacuum pump used to vacuum money out of fare boxes.

Hoses and vacuum pump used to vacuum money out of fare boxes.

Viejo San Juan’s Colorful Buildings

I love buildings that are painted bright colors. They grab you and make you look at them. They look fun, festive, and alive. The Caribbean is famous for its colorful buildings, and Viejo San Juan has its share. Here are a few of the colorful buildings I saw in Viejo San Juan that I really liked.

Skinniest building I've ever seen

Skinniest building I’ve ever seen

Colorful houses

Colorful houses

A school

A school

Antiguo Casino

Antiguo Casino

Green building

Green building

Alcaldia (City Hall)

Alcaldia (City Hall)

Lots of balconies

Lots of balconies

All different colors

All different colors

Turquoise

Turquoise

The pink building used to be a bank

The pink building used to be a bank

Viejo San Juan

It wasn’t until I walked around Viejo (Old) San Juan, especially the perimeter of it, that I realized how it really is a walled city. El Morro guards the entrance to the bay, but the fortifications encircles the entirety of the old city. One of the few ways, and the historic way, from the sea level to the city is through La Puerta de San Juan. Walking through the La Puerta, you realize the fortification is serious fortification, as La Puerta is almost a tunnel in terms of the distance you must walk to go from the sea side to the city side. The fortification is truly impressive with the wall thickness and garitas and small openings for guards to stand ready. One modern day bonus of the fortification is that it must help protect Viejo San Juan from any hurricane storm surge. There is a promenade that follows the wall from its beginning on the bay side and ends on the ocean side of El Morro. It gives spectacular views of the fort and the water as well.

Beginning of bay side wall

Beginning of bay side wall

End of Paseo de lan Princesa

End of Paseo de lan Princesa

Bay side of El Morro

Bay side of El Morro

Garita

Garita

Bay side wall

Bay side wall

La Puerta de San Juan

La Puerta de San Juan

La Puerta de San Juan

La Puerta de San Juan

Ocean side wall

Ocean side wall

Ocean side wall

Ocean side wall

Ocean side wall with El Morro is background

Ocean side wall with El Morro is background

Brooklyn Navy Yard

As part of Open House New York, I got to wander around the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The old navy shipyard is being redeveloped for commercial use. There are several dry docks, and one dry dock is still operational. There is also many green features includes renewable power. However, the site is quite simply a really cool place to photograph.

Between Buildings 30 and 58

Between Buildings 30 and 58

Dry dock that is no longer in use

Dry dock that is no longer in use

Building 128

Building 128

Building 25

Building 25

Building 20

Building 20

External staircase on Building 127

External staircase on Building 127

Crane for operation dry dock

Crane for operation dry dock

Operational dry dock next to the East River

Operational dry dock next to the East River

Old crane

Old crane

Tank next to Building 41

Tank next to Building 41

Building 58

Building 58

Renovated Bluiding 92

Renovated Bluiding 92

Brooklyn Army Terminal

As part of Open House New York, I toured the Brooklyn Army Terminal. It was built at the end of World War I and was a huge military base that was used to transfer people and materials from land to sea. It was built in an entirely utilitarian design and in the incredibly short time of 17 months. However, its utilitarian design is what I find incredibly interesting. Building B has this huge atrium with two sets of railroad tracks. Trains would travel directly into the building where material would be off and on loaded from various levels. There are several bridges connecting several buildings so that material could be moved between buildings on vehicles without interfering with the train traffic below. The atrium is dramatic, and I love that the concrete pour lines are visible.

Building B Atrium

Building B Atrium

Building B Atrium

Building B Atrium

Building B Atrium

Building B Atrium

Building B Atrium

Building B Atrium

Building B Atrium loading docks

Building B Atrium loading docks

Building B Atrium

Building B Atrium

Building B entrance, the black lines show where railroad tracks originally were

Building B entrance, the black lines show where railroad tracks originally were

Exterior of Building A

Exterior of Building A

Building A

Building A

Bridge between Building A and Annex

Bridge between Building A and Annex

Bridge between Building A and B

Bridge between Building A and B