Architecture students explore how aquaculture could transform Brooklyn with algae

Imagine approaching the Brooklyn Army Terminal from the ferry or subway and seeing cows grazing next to the shore, where oysters are being released to begin their time cleaning the waterways, rebuilding habitats, and even providing food. 

Those are just a few of the designs proposed by students in the School of Architecture’s Graduate Architecture and Urban Design (GAUD) program as part of the fall 2020 Design 5: Crisicity: Urban Infrastructure in the Anthropocene studio led by Alexandra Barker, assistant chair of GAUD and adjunct associate professor-CCE, and Alex Tahinos, visiting assistant professor in GAUD. 

Each student started with the same assignment: design adaptive reuse programs for the currently vacant Boiler House, part of a warehouse complex that was home to 20,000 employees during its height in World War II, and an important driver of New York City’s industrial economy in the 20th century. The Brooklyn Army Terminal now has over 4,000 employees across a range of industries, but the historic site has the capacity to house much more and to do so in a way that benefits the local community.

Each of the students’ projects incorporated aquaculture, a method of using waterways to produce food, restore habitats, and rebuild populations of endangered species. The studio worked with the Billion Oyster Project, an organization dedicated to rebuilding New York’s once-thriving oyster population and educating New Yorkers about the sustainable and culinary power of oysters. The students learned about algae farming and how other forms of aquaculture provide sustainable sources of food, fuel, and jobs, rebuilding marine habitats and ecosystems along the way.

For Ricardo Palacio, March ’21, this involved a public market specifically geared for Sunset Park, in combination with aquaculture. As he explained, “I modified the interior spaces to create a continuous circulation that merges areas dedicated for hydroponics and spaces for educational purposes and urban markets.” Palacio’s design also has an educational center where visitors can learn about the oyster farm and hydroponics that take place inside the space and a market where Sunset Park residents will be able to sell their own goods to the community and visitors. 

The building would be hidden until you come closer and would offer plenty of uses benefiting the surrounding community. Verni designed an indoor, vertical farm to grow produce for the neighborhood, on top of an oyster hatchery and algae farm. The produce would grow in a series of “grow tubes” which run up and down the length of the structure and, using grow lights and water, are cleaned by the algae farm. 

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