The pressures Gowanus currently faces – economic, cultural, morphological, and ecological – are both significant and haphazard. As a ‘‘field station’’, our project is not only a place which can be used to craft an urban strategy to address these forces, it is an embodiment of the strategy itself, which focuses on three of Gowanus’s most notable characteristics: its variety of flexible building typologies, its rich and diverse collection of programs/uses and its scarcity of iconic architectural landmarks.
RECOGNIZE AND UNITE. Gowanus is already a collection of rich and varied businesses and flexible building typologies. Leveraging this neighborhood strength, our proposal for an ‘‘urban field station’’ does not call for a new building. Rather, it posits that the field station program – exhibits, academic space, workspace, auditorium, and recreation – already exists in the current physical and economic field of Gowanus. It simply needs to be knit together logistically. We see the urban field station as a flexible alliance of local businesses that share their space and time for the purposes of serving as a community center. The field station works as a collection of existing buildings on a neighborhood campus, meeting the physical requirements of the program, while simultaneously cultivating a strong bond between local businesses and the Gowanus community.
REPRESENT. New York is a city of icons. The Empire State Building, World Trade Center, and the Statue of Liberty are all material representations of a civic ethos. Gowanus can contribute to New York’s legacy of postcard-worthy icons with its own architectural landmark. Reassembling the recently dismantled ‘‘Kentile Floors’’ sign letters along the axis of the Gowanus Canal is a proposal similar in spirit to the idea of the field station itself. Not only will it bring back a meaningful neighborhood icon in a new way, it will also serve as a powerful reflection of Gowanus’s identity as a neighborhood: vibrant, diverse, gritty, and resilient.
Architect: Office of Architecture; Team: Aniket Shahane, Principal; Ivan Kostic, Valentin Bansac