Sponge Park: Gowanus Canal

Park Books

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Brooklyn's Gowanus Canal is a hidden landmark, a valuable but latent asset to the local and broader community. Formerly a wetland creek, it is now severely polluted and bordered by industrial buildings. Although it is surrounded by residential neighborhoods, there is hardly any public access to the water's edge. The existing canal bulkhead and drainage is also a piece of hard engineered infrastructure that is seemingly easy to maintain but inadequate for managing extreme weather-when it fails the impacts are catastrophic. To facilitate greater access and ecological productivity of the Gowanus Canal, Brooklyn-based firm DLANDstudio has invented the Sponge ParkTM. It is designed as a series of public urban waterfront spaces that slow, absorb, and filter dirty surface water runoff to clean contaminated canal water, reduce combined sewer overflow, and to activate the canal edge. Revealing the form, distribution, and size of natural ecological patterns in relation to the shape and patterns of infrastructure, neighborhoods, and political jurisdictions is another key component of the design. This book introduces the award-winning Sponge ParkTM in great detail with photos, illustrations, plans, and diagrams. It demonstrates the concept's potential as component also of a larger vision for a new paradigm of coastal urbanism, upland adaptation, and right of way design in the 21st Century that anticipates more frequent extreme weather impacts and affects American policy making. It is a must-read for design students, architects, and academics as well as for elected officials, policy makers, and community activists.