Powerhouse Arts, Brooklyn, NY
Start Date: 2021 Powerhouse Arts, Client Herzog & de Meuron and PBDW Architects, Architect Ken Smith Workshop, Landscape Architect Barrett Doherty, Photography Powerhouse Arts is a not-for-profit contemporary center for multi-disciplinary artist workshops and fabrication facilities and occupies a significant historic site and structure, formerly the central power station of the Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company. The landmark structure sits prominently on the 2.5-acre canal site and is a significant landmark in Brooklyn’s memory and history. As part of an intensive brownfield site cleanup and major historic building renovation, the site design reinterprets materials and forms to evoke the industrial uses formerly found along the canal and recalls the wild quality of emergent successional ecology resulting from years of neglect. Principal design goals involve reflecting the site’s history and sense of place while addressing contemporary issues of coastal resiliency and waterfront access. Remediation efforts included removing site soils, capping, importing new fill material and reconstructing the decayed seawall. While site remediation required removal of contaminated material, the design goal was to not strip the site of its significance and history. New landscape features include a completely reconstructed and reshaped waterfront edge with reuse and celebration of common industrial materials. Changes in sea levels and increased incidents of storm surges and flooding on the canal were primary considerations that drove the design, resulting in the site being raised up to protect the building from flooding. The waterfront edge has been reshaped and elevated 15 feet. To accomplish this, new sheet pile sea wall was installed alongside a generous pedestrian walkway, which is backed by a sittable stepped concrete block revetment and a sloped landform of boulders and plantings.