Underground Machinery

Control of nature required not only manipulation of the surface of Central Park, but changing the foundation underneath the ground the park was built on top of. Before construction of the park began, the park land was a mix of rocky, infertile soil and swampy wetlands. To create the pastoral, the soil needed to be fertile and water needed to be contained within lakes and ponds. By changing the foundation of the land itself, Central Park is the ultimate pastoral because it not only represents man's control of nature, but is that control and harmony made reality.

To make solid ground from the swamp, Olmsted and Vaux created a drainage system to run underneath the paths. Without these hidden structures, the ease of a stroll through the Ramble would have been impossible. Nature needed new technology to be enjoyed and appreciated in the fashion intended by park planners. Thus the city park became not only a vestige of artistically planned nature, but a site of grand engineering that made use not only of aesthetic ideas, but of modern technological innovations.
Diagram of drainage system underneath the paths of the park.

The construction of the Lake required ingenous planning not only of what would look beautiful, but how to control the land into creating this beauty and maintain the illusion of naturalness. Surrounding the lake, underneath the soil, is an elaborate drainage system that works maintain a pleasing water level in the lake.

Photograph and diagrams of lake drainage system.

Such technology is what makes the surface of the park actuality. Central Park is not just a sculpture of surface nature, but an insertion of culture's technology beneath the art of the landscape itself. While appreciating nature, one is walking on top of culture's most anti-nature innovations.

While the drainage systems were built to support artificial nature, roadways were built to lead undesireable culture underneath the park. Four transverse roads were built to allow commercial traffic to pass through the park without being seen. The park was meant to be a refuge from the business of the city and the transverse roads insured this while allowing commerce to exist on both the west and east sides of the park.
The chaos of city commerce and culture of the lower class is clearly depicted in this drawing of a transverse road during the early days of the park.

The tunnels were carved through huge outcroppings of solid rock, held up by retaining walls, on top of newly constructed foundations and hidden by a line of trees, or planted on top of to further prevent them from being a part of the park goer's landscape.

Profile of support system of transerve roads. Note the trees drawn above the tunnel. The park continued without interruption over these commericial roads.

The tunnels and drainage systems of Central Park -- the Underground Systems -- were as much a part of the visitor's experience as the Ramble and the Lake. They were hidden structures that made the artifice of the surface possible.

Above the underground structures, the park appears effortless and natural.