Architects compete to spruce up the canal zone

Architects compete to spruce up the canal zone
Photo by Noah Devereaux

Pig — meet lipstick.

With development stalled along the Gowanus Canal, a group of architects is seeking ways to spruce up the noxious waterway.

Yes, it’s a design competition for the Gowanus Canal.

The contest was borne out of frustration with the city’s approach to planning around the waterway, which, critics said, took on a top-down approach.

At one time, the Department of City Planning intended to rezone the Gowanus corridor, protecting manufacturing uses in places but also allowing 12-story buildings along the water’s edge.

But when the feds named the waterway a Superfund site, developers abandoned the area, saying they couldn’t wait more than a decade for the $500-million clean-up, and the rezoning plan was placed on indefinite hiatus.

The group sees opportunity in the development vacuum.

“The goal is that the entries become food for thought and it allows the community to start to look at the way it wants to have the area developed,” said Carroll Gardens resident Anthony Deen, an architect and member of the design group.

The first place winner will win $1,000. More contests are planned in the future as part of the group’s overarching Lowline Competition, a play on Manhattan’s High Line Park — only lower — which seeks to raise awareness about possibilities along the waterway.

Residents are supportive.

“It is definitely important to bring people to the waterway,” said Gowanus resident Steven Miller. “We can all look forward to a day that the canal is clean and far more integrated into the community. Right now, it stands alone, and I think there is a lot of opportunity there.”

Contest backers said there is no proscribed way of thinking about how to better connect the canal to the neighborhood.

“A pedestrian footbridge, new signage, even bird houses along the canal are simple tools that serve as markers, communicate something, and show there is activity,” said David Krieger, managing director of the Gowanus Canal Community Development Corporation, an advocacy group that is sponsoring the contest.

The deadline to register is April 1. The winning entry will be announced in May. Register online at www.gowanuslowline.org/register.html.