Groen Hook boat center

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infoThis project was an entry for the 2004 American Institute of Architects Groen Hoek East River Community Boathouse competition. The East River Community Boathouse would provide the East River Kayak Club and the East River Apprenticeshop, as well as members of the community of Greenpoint and Williamsburg in Brooklyn, New York, with a space with direct access to the Bushwick Creek Inlet and the East River in which leadership and conservation will be taught to inner city youth through environmental education and traditional wood boat design, construction, and use on a site that has a strong tradition of ship building. The Bushwick Creek Inlet is at the intersection of Greenpoint and Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and is a natural estuary with an abundant aviary and horticultural ecosystem, sheltered from the East RIver’s stong currents and traffic.

Our scheme proposes that the Groen Hoek boathouse program be expanded to integrate a range of activities connected to the experience of the inlet and Greenpoint waterfront. The boathouse building is integrated into a landscaped surface of indigenous grasses. The grass surface covers the entire boathouse roof, merging seamlessly with the surrounding shaped earth and grass, and providing a surface for leisure and recreational activities that exploit the site’s unique waterfront position. The integration of the boathouse with landscaped surroundings that support additional activity is seen as a model for reengagement with the Greenpoint waterfront. This model anticipates a network of leisure and recreation uses, promenades, and open park spaces along the waterfront, including possible future events such as facilities for the 2012 Olympics. This project proposes the boathouse building as a node in this network, sharing its space and opportunities with other waterfront leisure activities and stimulating exchange between visitors and this unique environment, including a greater exposure for boat building and paddling.

The building organization is essentially a courtyard form. Each of the four sides, or ‘bars’, corresponds with a main program element: boat building, boat storage, community space, and a cafe/lounge. Other program areas, such as changing areas, restrooms, administrative space, and kitchen area are integrated into the four bars according to required adjacencies. Flexible space is also provided for additional activities and events, such as educational functions. The fourth bar (on the river side) in this arrangement is elevated one floor above the others, leaving this end of the courtyard space open to the rest of the site, providing views of the inlet, East River and Manhattan.

The boat building workshop provides space for the simultaneous construction of 6 kayaks and 2 rowboats. Ample natural light is provided through continuous windows at the second floor level. Overhead doors exist along three sides of the workshop, and when open allow for full views of the surroundings as well as ample natural ventilation. This creates a direct connection between the act of boat building and its environment. Visitors may view construction of boats in the workshop from the second floor gallery, and passers-by through the large open doors on the ground level. A flexible storage system is provided for 96 kayaks and 24 rowboats, accessed by hand from the ground floor. Additional storage for 30 kayaks and 12 rowboats can be accessed using a hoist system. The overhead doors on three sides of the storage area allow for easy loading and unloading of boats.

The building is incorporated into a landscape of shaped earth, grass, steps and retaining walls. This landscaped surface continues over the roof of the building, creating a raised, sculpted ‘lawn’ of indigenous, drought-resistant grasses, with elevated views of the inlet, the East River, Manhattan, and the surrounding neighborhood. The grass roof and surrounding green areas act as a ‘relief node’ for the neighborhood – offering the benefits of cooling in the summer, mitigating the ‘heat island’ effect of the surrounding hard surfaces. The green roof provides many ecological benefits, including reducing storm water runoff into the inlet and river, insulation for the building (cooling in summer, reducing heat loss in winter). This is part of a strategy of reducing energy consumption. Approximately 25% of the building is embedded in earth. The building uses natural ventilation to remove heated collected at the ceiling high points, and cross ventilation through windows and large overhead doors, taking advantage of waterfront breezes to cool the building naturally in the summer months.
competition / Brooklyn, NY / 2004

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