Gowanus Canal Sponge Park™

Brooklyn, NY

Gowanus has a rich history.  Originally a large marshy wetland the area was the site of early Dutch settlement, important Revolutionary War battles, and industry that includes the energy and construction sectors.  Planners envision the area as a new site for large residential development, a controversial proposal in the face of climate change projections.  In this context, working closely with local community organizations, government agencies, and elected officials, dlandstudio initiated and designed a new kind of public open space, a Sponge Park™. Through an unconventional, unprecedented process, dlandstudio raised all of the design and construction funding for the project from the New York State Council on the Arts,  United States Congress,  New York City Council,  the New England Water Pollution Control Commission,  the State Department of Environmental Conservation (Environmental Justice Grant),  and the New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation.

The Sponge Park™ design equally values the aesthetic, programmatic, and productive importance of treating contaminated water flowing into the Gowanus Canal, an EPA Superfund site.  The park is designed as a working landscape that improves the environment of the canal over time. This innovative plan proposes strategies to divert excess storm water run-off for use in the public park along the canal, reducing the input of rain water into the sewer system. The plants and engineered soils included in our design draw heavy metals and biological toxins out of contaminated water.  Proposed floating remediation wetlands incorporate a mixture of aquatic organisms that absorb or break down organic toxins, heavy metals, and biological contaminants from sewage.

National AIA, Honor Award, Regional and Urban Design, 2011


National ASLA, Honor Award, Analysis and Planning, 2010


AIANYS, Award of Merit, Unbuilt, 2009


Green Dot Awards: Service Category, Honorable Mention, 2009


BSA Award for Urban Regeneration, 2009


Chicago Athenaeum & European Centre for Architecture Art Design & Urban Studies,
Good Design Awards,“ 2009


ASLA Un-Built Works Merit Award, 2008