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  • YMCArt center on the gowanus

    YMCArt center on the gowanus
    brooklyn NEW YORK

    HONORABLE MENTION – $100

    suckerPUNCH: describe your project.

    vanessa KEITH: our project emphasizes public space for the community, a ymca with a twist: art spaces + community spaces + research spaces. the main building, located to the north along fifth street, combines space for art with an environmental research and remediation program, including offices and research labs, which makes the project economically sustainable. we were intrigued by the concept of industrial symbiosis and the notion that the site’s industrial legacy could be transformed into an amenity for local residents. by incorporating site remediation within the program and structure, the project serves as a demonstration of a new locally focused strategy.


    the ground floor contains both the digital and analog workshops, which serve the artists’ level on the second floor. the first floor, accessed by way of a stair/ramp/seating area which faces smith street, contains the gallery/bar and additional exhibition space for the environmental program, located on the third and fourth floors. environmental research and development labs as well as a lecture hall, library, media lab and offices complete this portion of the building, which is capped by an occupiable green roof open to the public. a wetlands park serves as the entry to the site, along which are placed artists’ live/work studios to the south, culminating in a gym and wellness center with a boathouse for kayaks and rowboats that is a much needed amenity for local residents. the placement and scale of built elements on the site has a direct relationship to the locations of the most highly contaminated areas, where direct access to the ground would be problematic. remediation devices cleverly merge with parkscape elements and playfully dot the site; a long bench is also a biopile, a streetlight or a swing doubles as a bioventing device and even the structural columns incorporate a heavy metal stabilization system which works deep within the ground.

    the project, thus, is an art factory of the post-industrial age. artists, community residents, and scientists mingle in a project which has the potential to become a hub for economic and environmental renewal, innovation and the fusion of both halves of the brain: in short, a new silicon valley deep in the heart of brooklyn.

    sP: what or who influenced this project?

    vanessa keith: we have long been interested in the combination of architecture, landscape, and technology, and believe in the potential of the built environment to be both ecologically and socially performative. rather than continuing to put up structures which are merely containers for the occupants within, architects are beginning to explore smart envelopes which react to the building’s local conditions and surroundings. this is good, but it still needs to go a few steps further. we are also very interested in the building’s place at the urban scale, and in the ability of cities to be retrofitted in such a way as to begin to solve our problems in place rather than by starting from scratch. this could be with devices, such as our remediators, which can have a dual civic/environmental function, or with clip-on architecture, an idea we developed last summer in a research project, which begins to work at the urban scale.

    sP: what were you reading/listening to/watching while developing this project?

    vanessa KEITH: listening: radiohead, pinback, out hud, barrabas, fischerspooner, lcd soundsystem, the knife, mgmt, adult.

    reading: magazines: mark magazine, arquine, architectural review; books: here comes everybody by clay shirky, mind wide open by steven johnson, the wisdom of crowds by james surowiecki, hidden order: how adaptation builds complexity by john h. holland.

    watching: wong kar wai’s 2046, chungking express, true blood, star trek (2009).

    sP: whose work is currently on your radar?

    vanessa KEITH: delugan meissl, sanaa, unstudio, zaha hadid, herzog & de meuron, isamu noguchi, torafu, west 8.

    design team: studioteka design (www.studioteka.com)

    vanessa KEITH, aia, principal

    ana SUCENA, dongsuk LEE, kyungyoon SONG, nanna WÜLFING, matt STANDEVEN, belinda JOLLY

    project collaborators & advisors: achva BENZINBERG stein FASLA, jérôme BALAS, jessica MARVIN, murali NALLAMOTHU

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