How Do You Solve a Problem Like Gowanus?

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Gowanus?

photo via GbD

Here’s the question:

Can a new community center and retention facility on a heavily contaminated urban site be designed so that it strengthens the surrounding infrastructure and educates the community about the precious value of water and the environmental challenges facing the area?

Got an answer? That’s where you come in. Gowanus by Design, a community-based advocacy group focused on urban design issues, is holding their second annual Water Works competition, and they’re appealing to innovators far and wide for potential solutions, reports Patch.

The goal is end up with an array of proposals for a new community resource that will share space (more or less where the Douglass Street Pool is now) with a Combined Sewer Overflow [CSO] retention facility. And while “fun” and “recreation” aren’t the first words one associates with “combined sewer overflow” (no offense, CSOs), GbD wants to seize the opportunity to “explore water’s role in recreation, quotidian uses, and in contaminated urban environments.” Because — seriously — there’s no time to consider water’s place in the city’s infrastructure like when you’re swimming next to a sewage plant.

According to the contest description, the jury will be looking for “designs that explore these challenges and propose a stronger community node within an area that is slowly establishing its identity as a viable mixed-use urban neighborhood.” And while you don’t have to be an professional environmental engineer to enter, it wouldn’t hurt — they want to see technically viable solutions that require a solid understanding of, you know, sewer systems, waste management, and urban planning. On the bright side, you’ve got until December 14th to figure it out.

Besides potentially saving the world, the prizes are as follows:

1st Prize: $3,000

2nd Prize: $1,000

Honorable Mentions: Up to 6 awarded at the discretion of the jury

For the rules, requirements, and registration info, as well as to check out last year’s winning proposals, visit


Sign in or become a Bklyner member to join the conversation.