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Green Infrastructure

Department: Architecture
Instructors: Gita Nanden and Eliot Maltby
Summer 2014

The 2014 Green Infrastructure studio’s goal was to use green infrastructure as a vehicle for more socially and ecologically resilient public housing. Red Hook Houses, like many NYC public housing campuses, is located in an environmentally vulnerable area, most of it built on a former marsh, and was severely impacted during Sandy.

The generous open space within the Houses is ostensibly public space for the residents; while there is a robust tree canopy, the landscape is mostly inaccessible, inactivated lawn, with a stringent controls regarding use imposed by cast-iron fences and the police. The Centre Mall, a central walkway cutting through the Houses and connecting the projects to the surrounding context, was the starting point for studio. The projects seek to address social justice issues in relation to access to quality public space, to engage local residents in the active improvement their environment, and to design innovative stormwater management strategies. Using recreation spaces for multiple generations as a subtle platform for education is a strong strategy that both Drain-age and the Pollinator Path employ. Students were also invited to think expansively and creatively about connections to the neighborhood as a whole. In this vein, Red Hook Connects uses green infrastructure to physically link the Houses to the waterfront, and in doing so, create new commercial corridors. The Red Hook Initiative’s Social Justice Fellows served as our community partners.


Student: Acacia Dupierre

Drain-age redesigns playground spaces by inviting water with intention, to inspire a variety of outdoor spaces for active and passive recreation that are appealing to residents of all ages.

Twenty million gallons of water are essentially wasted each year in the Red Hook Houses’ 26 existing spray shower playgrounds. Although residents wish to enjoy the spaces as meeting places and as respite from summer temperatures, the playgrounds’ static, repetitive and flood-prone design is considered boring, wasteful, and senseless.

Instead, Drain-age collects and recirculates up to 6 million of gallons of storm water annually throughout the Red Hook Houses site, preventing it from entering New York City’s overburdened sewer system. It also eliminates the need for an additional 20 million gallons of water to activate the playgrounds, thereby conserving a precious resource. Drain-age does this by harnessing the collecting power of the housing development’s many rooftops, guiding residents who follow the sight, sound and sensation of water to fill these engaging and enticing spaces.

Pollinator Path

Student: Elana Bulman

The Pollinator Path draws on the metamorphosis of butterflies as an inspiration for the transformation of the Red Hook Houses Centre Mall. The project features outdoor exercise equipment and kids play stations along a permeable rubber walking and jogging track, surrounded by rain gardens containing plants that attract butterflies as well as edible gardens to grow fresh produce. Ecologically, the redesign would retain 7.7 million gallons of stormwater annually and create an urban habitat for butterflies and other pollinators. The Pollinator Path serves a spectrum of Red Hook residents’ health needs, from healthy eating to exercise to active, compelling community spaces.

Red Hook Connects

Student: Christopher Rice

Red Hook Connects promotes social cohesion by creating paths, which marry ecologically productive wetland meadows with commercial corridors. It creates, “living paths,” that divert and filter 86,000 gallons/ per day of gray water as well as rooftop runoff from the sewer system. The project envisions the Red Hook House’s Centre Mall as a large wetland meadow creating a unique pedestrian connection that manages grey water and provides spaces for privacy. Using the Centre Mall as a starting point, Red Hook Connects expands throughout the rest of the neighborhood connecting public housing residents to other important commercial, recreation and public spaces.

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