Green Gowanus: “Maximun Exposure”

The future of the area of the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn engages one of the most interesting current developmental debates in New York City. As a continuation of prior Urban Ecology Studio research, this design studio option directly engages the complexity of this debate to the maximum exposure practicable in a studio context and will interact with a full range of the principal players and stakeholders involved.

The Gowanus Canal lies between the Park Slope and the Carrol Gardens neighborhoods in Brooklyn. Both neighborhoods have gentrified in recent years and remain in high demand, creating intense developmental pressures on the Gowanus in spite of the extreme levels of industrial pollution and infrastructural dysfunction, including related to sewage outflows. Developer pressure for zoning changes from industrial to residential, and ”big box” retail interests have been unrelenting in recent years, and were backed by the administration of immediate past Mayor Michael Bloomberg. In essence, those in favor of those strategies argued for prioritizing short term development over longer term and more substantial cleanup. With the Canal’s Federal Superfund designation, interesting strategy implications are raised relative to options for evolutionary processes for the site, in harmony with the long term sustainability of the New York City economy and its productive function in a newly urbanizing world.

All cities exist by reason of their strategic relationships to resources and infrastructure, and to the production that they enable. The question of the reinvention of the Gowanus directly touches this consideration and the reality that the Gowanus represents an irreplaceable resource that must not be casually discarded. The future of cities everywhere is connected to understanding the changing requirements for infrastructure and redefinition of resources. Urban competitiveness is directly dependent on infrastructural sustainability, with changing norms for scale and function. For infrastructure, the macro-scale of the 19th century is giving away to micro-scale of the 21st century, and this reality will give substance to the design studio discourse. A large consideration is also devoted to the question of new production – and to “green sustainable infrastructure” – the “vegetal city”, entailing the notion that cities must develop new strategic relationships to horticulture to include consideration of urban foodsheds and urban climate issues.

Clients and Collaborators
The Federal Superfund
New York State Department of Environmental Protection
Friends & Residents of Greater Gowanus (F.R.O.G.G.)
The Trust for Public Land

Urban Ecology Studio Fall 2010
Critics: Richard Plunz, Patricia Culligan, Richard Gonzalez, Philip Simmons