Brooklyn Powerhouse: Designs for an art and culture centre in New York New workshop of the Academy for Architectural Culture

  1 Sep 2014 -- At its next workshop the Academy for Architectural Culture (aac) in Hamburg will focus on the subject of ‘gen­trification’ and ‘working with existing buildings’.Scholarship students from Europe, America and Asia will work on concepts for a centre for artists and culturally active individuals, providing studios and workshops as well as space for exhibitions, events and performances; the building is to be built on old foundations on a site in the New York borough of Brooklyn, which has already been partially developed.

The existing building is a former nineteenth-century power station by the Gowanus Canal, opposite the southern tip of Manhattan, in a commercial area which is currently experiencing a rapid gentrification process. A founda­tion has purchased the site in order to make it available to the young art and culture scene in a socially responsi­ble and uncomplicated manner, providing affordable space for a variety of uses and a place of identification. The idea is to create a project that resists the increase in prices following the urban renewal.

The power station, which was built in structural framework construction with a distinctive curtain-wall façade in reddish-brown brick was taken out of service just before the Second World War and was then used for a variety of different functions. Some parts were torn down, some were converted. The directly adjoining steam generator building survived the phase of economic and social decline and can now be used as part of the redevelopment into a cultural centre.

This task demands a bold and uncompromising approach from the aac workshop participants, an approach that sensibly combines history with the future and also recognises the social and cultural responsibility of the archi­tect, which lies beyond a purely technical/professional handling of his duties. The briefing requires the designer to explore the potential of the existing building and – in combination with any needed building extensions - to formulate an overall concept for the use of old and new that expresses the artistic and social vision of its creator. The project covers the entire site with its approx. 8,000 square metres. Its embankment bordering the Gowanus Canal will – following the publicly funded renaturation of the canal – become part of the pedestrian and cycle path network and also have an art garden as well as a canteen that is open to the public.

The groups each consist of four participants from different cultural and academic backgrounds. They will each be tutored by an associate professor. The workshop will be headed by Meinhard von Gerkan, Stephan Schütz and Johann von Mansberg and will mostly take place at the Rainvilleterrasse Campus in Hamburg. It will kick off with an excursion to New York, where the workshop participants will familiarise themselves with the site and – together with students and professors from the Pratt Institute of Design in Brooklyn – will have the benefit of attending lectures and participating in an ad hoc design seminar.

As with previous aac workshops, the course will be supported with public lectures by renowned specialists in their field:

Monday, 8 September, 15:00 hours: Sören Grünert (BIG Kopenhagen/New York)
Thursday, 11 September, 19:00 hours: Prof. Piet Eckert (e2a, Zürich)
Tuesday, 16 September, 19:00 hours: Prof. Almut Grüntuch-Ernst (Grüntuch Ernst, Berlin)
Wednesday, 17 September, 19:00 hours: Prof. Enrique Sobejano (Nieto Sobejano, Berlin/Madrid)
Thursday, 25 September, 15:00 hours: Opening of the exhibition showing the results of the workshop

All events take place on the Rainvilleterrasse Campus (Rainvilleterrasse 4, 22765 Hamburg) and are free of charge.

The Academy for Architectural Culture (aac)

The aac, which was initiated by the gmp founding partners Meinhard von Gerkan and Volkwin Marg, has been offering valuable additional qualifications to gifted architectural students and young architects from different countries in the form of intensive aac courses for the last six years. The private non-profit institution is supported by the gmp Foundation and, with its research and teaching, aims to support continuing education. Prior to this year’s aac “Brooklyn Powerhouse” workshop, participants worked on ideas for school buildings of the future, taking the German school in Shanghai as an example (2013), on architectural concepts for affordable housing in Hamburg and Shanghai (2012), and on strategies for a sustainable city, “TXL+”, using the example of Berlin’s Tegel Airport (2009). The last topic on this summer’s curriculum was parametric design where participants pre­sented their ideas for an aquatic competition centre with Olympic dimensions.

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