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New look at Gowanus Canal Sponge Park - Design becomes part of Architects’ ‘Ecotones’ exhibit on LaGuardia Place

The Gowanus Canal Conservancy, in collaboration with its consultant Susannah Drake and Brooklyn-based landscape architecture firm dlandstudio, has developed a design for a Gowanus Canal Sponge Park. This project was presented by Drake before a recent meeting of the New York Chapters of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA).

The plan was selected to be part of their current exhibition, “Ecotones: mitigating NYC’s contentious sites.” The exhibit explores how landscape architects, working with government agencies, community groups, and design professionals, are at the forefront of NYC’s sustainability efforts through transforming ecological problems into opportunities for habitation and recreation.

“The Gowanus Canal Conservancy (GCC) is thrilled that the American Institute of Architects has selected our Sponge Park design for inclusion in their exhibit,” said Bob Zuckerman, executive director of the conservancy. “The outpouring of support from people in the community who have seen Sponge Park has been tremendous, and now those in the greater New York City design, architecture and landscape architecture communities will also have the opportunity to see this amazing design by Susannah Drake and dlandstudio.”

The exhibit’s curators define “ecotones” as zones between adjacent, but opposing, ecosystems, for example, where industry meets the river or where community and industrial uses collide. Both of these examples illustrate how the Sponge Park design fits in. This design would develop street ends into publicly usable areas and would create a public esplanade along the Gowanus Canal, historically a center of waterfront industry.

The Sponge Park would give the canal’s banks new life: it would give the community access to the canal in a way it has not had before; would include a water retention system under this walkway which would reduce the combined sewage overflow (CSO) which currently brings raw sewage into the canal; and would incorporate specific plants into the design which naturally strip toxins out of water, thereby filtering the surface runoff which further pollutes the canal.

The Gowanus Canal Conservancy’s Chairman Andy Simons noted, “This is an important recognition for the Gowanus community. Brooklyn is typically overlooked by the design/architecture community and we are thrilled that our design was selected for this exhibit. Susannah and her team at dlandstudio have worked hard on this plan and the community has responded very positively. We are hopeful and encouraged that we will be able to make the plan a reality.”

Gowanus Canal’s historical evolution, water remediation strategies, linear urban park and street-end designs, as well as dlandstudio’s design process for Sponge Park will be presented through drawing boards and an exhibition catalogue. The exhibition will be on view through September 6, 2008, at the Center for Architecture, 536 LaGuardia Place in New York City.

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