NY Times: The Batcave, a Graffiti Landmark in Brooklyn, Grows Up

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  • Client: Powerhouse Environmental Arts Foundation

A long-shuttered power station on the Gowanus Canal will become a manufacturing center for the arts, according to a design for the property that was released today.

The Powerhouse Environmental Arts Foundation acquired the site of the former Brooklyn Rapid Transit power station in 2012 and commenced environmental remediation under the New York State Brownfield Cleanup Program.

Pritzker Prize-winning architecture practice Herzog & de Meuron, based in Basel, Switzerland and known for its distinctive museums, residences and performance spaces, was commissioned to reimagine the 113-year-old coal-burning power plant to house state-of-the-art facilities for fabrication in wood, metal, ceramics, textiles, and printmaking.

Matt Chaban of the New York Times covered the story:

Standing on the Third Street Bridge over the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn, you can almost watch a community changing before your very eyes.

On one side sits a three-year-old Whole Foods, wind-turbines spinning in its vast parking lot. On the other, a cluster of loft-style apartment towers is in the works, while the Ferrara Bros. concrete company, one of the largest in New York City, is preparing to relocate. The canal itself remains a murky Superfund site.

The lone sentinel of the neighborhood’s postindustrial, pre-apocalyptic days is the so-called Batcave. A former Brooklyn Rapid Transit power station built in 1904, it was decommissioned in the 1950s and became a punk squat decades later, playing host to raucous dance parties and graffiti on practically every surface.

Like many of the buildings lining the fetid waterway, it is poised for a rebirth. This year, the nonprofit Powerhouse Environmental Arts Foundation plans to break ground on a project that will provide a haven for two of the canal’s most endangered species: artists and manufacturers. The foundation plans to renovate and expand the power station, turning it into a factory of sorts for the production of art. The project, the Powerhouse Workshop, will include metalwork, woodwork, printmaking, ceramics and fiber art, as well as exhibition space.

“The building has long been a destination for artists, and we wanted to keep it that way,” Katie Dixon, the foundation’s executive director, said during a recent tour of the cavernous former turbine hall.

The Powerhouse Workshop will share at least one thing with its tonier neighbors: top-shelf designers, namely Herzog & de Meuron, the Pritzker Prize-winning Swiss firm, who may now qualify as the most famous architects to work within a Superfund site.

For the full story and 360 video, click here.