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Greening Greenpoint: Investigating Technology and Environment-based Design

This thesis investigates architectural design with a focus on technology and parametric, or computational, design strategies in relation to environmental simulation and sustainability. While numerous studies of new digital and parametric design technologies have been undertaken, few discuss their potential application or synergy with sustainable or environmentally focused design. However, there is increasing interest in bridging the perceived gap between these areas of focus in architectural design, as will be discussed in a section on recent symposia related to performance and design technologies. The research project seeks to apply insight gained from these studies to a design project to be located in the Greenpoint neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. The project type is a library and research center which would serve as a knowledge base and community hub for the study and discussion of environmental protection, sustainability, and conservation. As a hybrid archive, learning center, forum, and repository of information, it would aim to serve as a catalyst for the ongoing attempts to remediate the environmental conditions of nearby Newtown Creek and adjacent land, which has been subjected to severe environmental degradation as a result of a century and half of industrial activities related to oil refining and storage. The eastern portion of Greenpoint along Newtown Creek has been designated a superfund site as a result of millions of gallons of oil spillage occurring over an uncertain length of time, much of which remains below ground today. Additionally, the surrounding water bodies have been polluted from the discharge of excess wastewater due to overflow of the city’s combined sewer system during large storms. Thus the community and city face numerous environmental challenges and would be well served by a facility which would provide a research base and meeting place. The project also engages with an additional set of conditions related to the site. Recent zoning changes have been approved which will convert the formerly industrial East River waterfront to a dense residential zone. While the zoning aims to establish a public space along the waterfront, it will also likely result in residential towers vastly out of scale and context with adjacent neighborhood, which includes an important historic district, and a diverse population. The project seeks to place instead, at the tip of the peninsula which was once named for its greenness, a public space dedicated to its restoration.
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