Winners announced for Gowanus urban design competition

October 30, 2015 Brooklyn Daily Eagle
First Prize: The BK BioReactor. Team: Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects (Matthew Seibert and Ian Quate) and Weill Cornell Medical College (Elizabeth Henaff); New York City. Image courtesy of Gowanus by Design
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Gowanus by Design recently announced the winner of its design competition, “Axis Civitas.” The proposals ranged from ziplines to mobile labs and represented architects and planners from all over the world.

A jury consisting of New York City architects, landscape architects and city planners met in the Lower Manhattan offices of Rogers Partners to judge the many entries.

The proposals came in response to a two-component competition that had asked participants to first map and present conditions relevant to the Gowanus area in a Gowanus Atlas, and second to use that analysis as the basis for a design of an Urban Field Station that would be open to the public.

“The Atlas, a collective mapping of the watershed surrounding the canal, will be a planning tool and local resource supported by the Field Station to facilitate the community’s grassroots collaboration in the continuing evolution of the neighborhood,” said David Briggs, co-founder and executive director of Gowanus by Design, in a statement.

According to Briggs, the objectives of the competition included “providing the community with new resources so future decisions on growth and development can be more fully evaluated. Axis Civitas presents an opportunity for us to collect ideas for future development and to open the doors to visualizing the changing conditions in and around the Gowanus.”

The Winners:

1st Prize: BK BioReactor — by Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects and Weill Cornell Medical College, New York.

As a result of microbiome analysis, the BK BioReactor is an infrastructural BioNetwork designed to ensure that the taxonomy and potentially unique cellular functions of groups of microbes in the Gowanus Canal are catalogued and studied before dredging operations eliminate access. These investigations will continue into the future and generate an active space for visitors to inquire, investigate and project findings back to the community.

2nd Prize: Live Ends — by Annie Barrett Studio, Brooklyn.

By mapping fundamental characteristics of the canal — dead-end streets, litter and odors — Live Ends proposes activating the unique public spaces along the canal’s edge with a network of small urban field stations.

Honorable Mentions:

Zipping the Gowanus — Unity Through Diversity — by AnAn, Zurich, Switzerland

An urban design strategy that negotiates the boundary character of the canal and abandoned industry by proposing “zipper” systems that connect Park Slope and Carroll Gardens.

Field Station of the Industrial Sublime — by OpAl, Brooklyn, NY

An audacious proposal to drain the canal so it can serve as a wastewater treatment structure and reclaim Gowanus’ ghost streams as wetlands to aid in storm-water mitigation.

Gowanus Urban Field Station — by Office of Architecture, Brooklyn

Using New York City’s more famous icons (Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building) as inspiration, this proposal reassembles the recently dismantled ‘‘Kentile Floors’’ sign letters along the axis of the Gowanus Canal, serving as a powerful reflection of Gowanus’ identity as a neighborhood: vibrant, diverse, gritty and resilient.

Who Owns Gowanus? — by Pilot Projects Design Collective, New York

A departure from the city’s classification system of land ownership, “Who Owns Gowanus” offers a more nuanced system that uses linguistic analysis to develop ownership typologies. As a result, the field station becomes an incubator for rethinking traditional ideas of ownership, how it is classified and what an owner actually “owns.”

Go Gowanus — by Marina Bourderonnet, David Lee, Benjamin Hait and Kathlyn Kao, New York

Using robotic technology, six floating autonomous water-cleaning public parks — “Go-Bots” — dock at a field station and perform canal-cleaning tasks during dry weather. During wet weather, they absorb and relocate storm water runoff to the remediation tanks below the field station.

The Jury:

Brian McGrath, dean, School of Constructed Environments, Parsons, The New School for Design; Andrea Parker, executive director, Gowanus Canal Conservancy; Richard A. Plunz, professor of architecture, GSAPP, Columbia University; Robert M. Rogers FAIA, Partner, Rogers Partners; Claire Weisz FAIA, principal, WXY architecture + urban design; Adam Yarinsky FAIA LEED AP, Principal, Architecture Research Office.

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For more competition information, visit http://gowanusbydesign.org/axis-civitas/view/winning-entries.

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