Reimagining the Industrial Waterfront
Graduate students enrolled in Scales of Operation in the Waterfront have big ideas for the Brooklyn Navy Yard. In the fall studio taught by Senior Critic Enrique Martinez MID 98, students are envisioning fantastical ways to reinvent the 300-acre site that was once America's leading naval shipyard.
Though the site has been transformed into a modern industrial park, a large portion is abandoned. Once the naval yard's military operations ceased in 1966, many of the facilities that had been used to construct US battleships quietly fell into ruin. "It's a ghost place in some areas," Martinez explains. "The piers are in decay."
Intrigued by the site's complex structures, Martinez charged students with developing a theoretical project that would revitalize the Brooklyn Navy Yard in unconventional ways. "I wanted to familiarize students with the specific demands of waterfront urbanism and architecture," Martinez explains.
And so, over a weekend in early October, 11 graduate students visited the working waterfront located across from lower Manhattan. Andrew Salter MArch 13 says the experience sharpened his ability to find sustainable solutions to urban issues. "Having the ability to think critically about the waterfront in cities is a useful tool for designers, especially after the recent devastation of Hurricane Sandy," he notes.
A Brooklyn native, Salter was familiar with the semi-dilapidated state of the yard prior to taking the studio. But after the visit in October, he quickly developed a fascination for the ship-building cranes that are now rusted to their perches. "There's so much potential for reuse in these metal ruins," he explains.
Specifically, Salter imagines that the machinery could serve as the structural foundation for a series of walkways. Those public pathways would eventually connect waterfront neighborhoods located along the outskirts of the park. "I first knew my project would find a new kind of use for [the cranes]," Salter explains. "Now it's about using the relics as foundations for a new future in Brooklyn."
Other students in the studio also returned with visions of grandeur. Markus Stolz, a German exchange student, is particularly interested in revitalizing a concrete building that has remained vacant for years. Because the mixed-use structure originally housed explosive materials like torpedoes, windows were not included in the lower floors. "It's like a prison. It's not a very welcoming space," says Martinez.
With the hope of attracting future tenants, Stolz designed a translucent opening that would run from the building's roof to the ground floor. This shaft would allow sunlight to permeate all the floors, giving the space the natural light needed to appeal to prospective occupants.
And Karl Sippel MArch13 is no less imaginative. The graduate student designed a space for meditation inside one of the abandoned dry docks, a 1,200-1,400-foot-long cavern used to construct boats. The project melds his love of adaptive reuse with his sense that a number of people who work at the industrial park every day might appreciate having a space to escape to for quiet communing or philosophical musing. "It's so rewarding to work on something you're passionate about," Sippel says. -Abigail Crocker