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Gowanus Canal
Sponge Park™ Pilot


Gowanus, Brooklyn


Research and Planning
Parks and Infrastructure


Working closely with local community organizations, government agencies and elected officials, DLANDstudio initiated and designed a new kind of public open space: a completely modular street-end Sponge Park™. The design equally values the aesthetic, programmatic, and productive importance of treating contaminated water flowing into the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn, an EPA Superfund site. Sponge Parks are a critical component of our Gowanus Canal Masterplan.

Currently, the Gowanus Canal and its surroundings are suffering from years of exposure to industrial waste and water pollution. This is compounded by New York City’s combined sewer system. During a storm event, rain falling within the Gowanus watershed enters storm drains and mixes with raw sewage in the sanitary sewer system. During heavy rainfalls the combined sewage and storm water overflow directly into the Gowanus Canal. Sponge Park™ re-directs, holds, and treats storm water runoff to minimize the volume of overflows that occur within the canal, reducing raw sewage contamination and thus helping to clean the watershed.

The Sponge Park™ Masterplan

In our masterplan, a strategy of urban stitching is proposed to connect the public and private lands adjacent to the water and create a continuous esplanade running the length of the canal. Underpinning the strategy are a series of waterfront spaces known as the Sponge Park™, designed as a working landscape that improves water quality and activates the canal edge while communicating a larger vision for stewardship of the environment to a community with many competing voices, agendas and concerns.

Through an unprecedented process, DLANDstudio raised all of the design and construction funding for a pilot project along the canal corridor on Second Street. This pilot, completed in 2016, manages nearly 2,000,000 gallons of storm-water per year.

The design of the pilot project is purposefully modular for easy replication. The plants used have been chosen due to their ability to extract heavy metals and biological toxins out of the contaminated water. The design proposes replicable, realistic strategies for fixing broken urban infrastructure in a manner that supports the promise of a cleaner future.

44 Court Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201

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