Gowanus Lowline

  • Neighborhood

    Gowanus, Brooklyn
  • Use

    Urban Design & Planning Competition Entry
  • Status



The Gowanus is a waterway, a neighborhood, and an ecosystem that for much of its length is disconnected from the urban fabric in which it is embedded. Neither wholly man-made nor wholly shaped by nature, the canal in its current state is a cumulative result of both forces.  

This proposal straddles the line between the natural and the man-made by carving away, incising, adding to and blurring the canal’s edge in order to create new spaces around it and inside of it that connect people to the water and to the larger urban systems and ecosystems of which it is a part. 

This proposal was conceived as an opportunity to apply our ongoing research in computation and algorithmic design methods to urban design and planning. 

(Left) Initial Sketch diagram explaining the recursive logic (Right) A few test outcomes

To accomplish this, we created a design tool employing agent-based  logic. This gave us the flexibility to explore many design options at different scales and parameters using the same underlying conceptual framework.

North End (Butler St. to 3rd St.)

This area of the canal is marked by scattered vacant and underused sites that are inaccessible. The proposal looks at activating these spaces by opening up the edge of the canal and creating many connections to the water.  

North End Program Concepts

The uses are purposely left indeterminate in order to allow for the creativity of the community to find their own program. The pools and aqueducts also function as a water filtration system, continuing to improve water quality over time. 

Middle Marsh (3rd St. to 9th St.) 

The proposal here calls for widening the canal by re-establishing tidal marshlands and creating major access points for active recreation, including boat launches, a grassy hill, and boardwalks.

Middle Marsh Program Concepts

Harbor (Expressway to the Bay) 

The proposal here calls for a series of piers, docks, and causeways built in to the water. At the terminus of each of these piers is a series of towers that become islands at high tide. 

Harbor Program Concepts

They act as beacons for the shipping lanes, create a landmark for the Gowanus, and create a dramatic experience of New York Harbor