This project for a pragmatic yet utopian vision of district-wide sustainability was commissioned by Architecture Research Office as part of the Downtown Alliance’s larger planning initiative for the Greenwich South neighborhood of Lower Manhattan. Based on an analysis of the flows of energy, water, air, food, excrement, and vegetation in the area, the project took two interrelated forms. The first was a narrative developed with environmental engineer David White that identified the current state, near future, and ideal future of the district, establishing specific metrics and strategies for improving the environmental quality of Greenwich South, such as increased water conservation, building energy retrofits, reduction of automobile traffic, increased pedestrian and bicycle activity, and wetland induction. The second form was a series of design projects that articulated the potential sustainable future.
Among these projects were the repurposing of a parking garage into an ecological center, complete with anaerobic processing of organic waste and a rooftop wetland; a bicycle epicenter that connects to the existing West Side bike path; and the Green Sponge, conceived as an atmospheric filter above the mouth of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel. The Sponge is 150 feet by 150 feet by 400 feet and made from lightweight off-the-shelf scaffolding. The porous grid of scaffolding supports a heterogeneous array of plant species, birds, water-collection devices, and wind turbines, all interlaced with a series of light pedestrian walkways. Part park, part infrastructure, and part urban sculpture, the Green Sponge fills the void above the tunnel entrance with an inhabitable matrix of vegetation to mitigate the polluting effects of the traffic below.