Park filters rainwater that flows into Gowanus Canal

Aired on Fox News, December 18, 2015

by Sharon Crowley

– When it rains, a place called Sponge Park in Brooklyn starts to work. Landscape architect Susannah Drake helped design the park. It sits at the end of Second Street along the Gowanus Canal. Basically the water flows down the street and it flows into a sedimentation basin so that grabs all the water.

The Gowanus Canal was dredged centuries ago to move industrial commerce. It is still used today to transport scrap metal. It’s one of the most polluted bodies of water in the United States — as a federally designated superfund site. That means federal dollars are being spent to try to clean up the canal.

The park captures rain water flowing down Second Street, filters out waste and toxic materials using plants, soil and gravel.

Drake was a child when President Nixon signed into law the Clean Water Act. That legislation now enables her to do a lot of the work that she believed as a kid. She lives in Brooklyn not too far from Sponge Park.

Scientists from Manhattan College will be checking on the progress of Sponge Park. They’ve stored equipment monitoring equipment under canisters to check after a big storm. This is a pilot project opens officially in the spring. If it is a success sponge parks might pop up in other places along the canal.

Drake knows the park won’t improve the contaminated canal, but she takes pride in knowing this canal isn’t getting worse.

100 Year Anniversary Short Film

ASLA-NY is so pleased to present this preview to a slightly longer film to commemorate our 100th Anniversary!

The intention for the film was to highlight historical events and persons that helped shape landscape architecture in NYC in the last 100 years, key accomplishments of our chapter and members and discuss what the future holds for our profession. This video was first shown at our President’s Dinner Gala on November 6, 2014. For more on our President’s Dinner click here

ASLA-NY 100 Year Anniversary Short Film from ASLA-NY on Vimeo.

Video Credits:
Videography: AD Lubow, LLC

Steering Committee:
Jennifer Nitzky, ASLA, Co-Chair
Stephen Koren, ASLA, Co-Chair
Kathleen Cholewka, ASLA
Adrian Smith, ASLA
Frank Varro, ASLA
Joe Disponzio, ASLA

Elena Brescia, ASLA
Joseph Disponzio, ASLA
M Paul Friedberg, FASLA
Ed Hollander, FASLA
Signe Nielsen, FASLA
Christopher Nolan, FASLA
Nicholas Quennell, FASLA
Laura Starr, ASLA
Donna Walcavage, FASLA
Annette Wilkus, FASLA

Photo Credits:
NYC Parks
The Central Park Conservancy
The Cultural Landscape Foundation
Jennifer Nitzky, RLA, ASLA, ISA
SCAPE Landscape Architecture PLLC
Siteworks Landscape Architecture
Starr Whitehouse Landscape Architects and Planners PLLC
The Trust for Public Land

If you loved this film, please consider becoming a sponsor for future video projects – contact [email protected] today. 

See more videos from ASLA-NY on our Media Page

Check out our new Podcast page too!

Video: The Importance of Research for Successful International Projects

Published April 28, 2014


When designers work internationally and across cultures, understanding the people and environmental contexts of the project are especially critical.  This panel will explore a variety of ways that academic and scientific research informs, shapes and improves landscape architectural design.  The participants, from Australia, Italy, Spain and Iran, are studying the gradual impact of climate change on natural hazards, preserving indigenous methods of adaptations, analyzing the processes at work in urban forests, sustainable approaches to design and construction, biodigesters, water conservation.   Collectively, we will discuss how research and inquiry influence innovation in international landscape architectural practice.

Sara Zare – Visiting Scholar at SUNY-ESF, University of Tehran, Iran
Julia Watson – Principal, Studio Rede, NYC/Australia, Interdisciplinary Assistant Professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, New York
Eleonora Zilianti, ASLA – Principal, Landstudio, NYC/Italy
Enrique Ibanez Gonzalez – Principal, Urbanmatters, Spain
Marcha Johnson, ASLA, PhD – Moderator

Location: Trespa Design Centre, 62 Greene St

Sponsored by Bartlett Tree Experts

Video: The Challenges and Rewards of International Practice

Published on Apr 22, 2014


Principals from New York and Boston area design offices will present on their international work and discuss in a moderated panel the unique challenges, considerations and rewards of working internationally. Speakers will highlight the particular business, design and construction aspects unique to international practice for this continuing education event.

Jason Hellendrung, Principal, Sasaki Associates, INC.
Laura Starr, Principal, Starr Whitehouse Landscape Architects and Planners, PLLC
Yue Li, Partner, OLIN
Michael Weber, RLA, ASLA, Director of Landscape Design, Robert A.M. Stern Architects, LLP

Moderated by: Jennifer Nitzky, RLA,ASLA, Robert A.M. Stern Architects, LLP

Sponsored By: ASLA-NY

Expert Spotlight: Kate Orff, Founder, SCAPE / LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE

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Published on May 5, 2014
National Building Museum

Kate Orff is a landscape architect focused on sustainable design and urban water landscapes. Her firm specializes in integrating natural systems and infrastructure. To rehabilitate New York’s infamously polluted Gowanus Canal, she combined marine ecology with landscape architecture in an innovative scheme called “oyster-tecture.” At Columbia, Orff directs the Urban Landscape Lab.

Kate Orff, Founder, SCAPE / LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE, Associate Professor, Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture Planning and Preservation, New York, New York

See more at the National Building Museum’s exhibition Designing for Disaster:

Video: Preview of the Nicholas Quennell Oral History

Published on Apr 28, 2014

by The Cultural Landscape Foundation

Hear accomplished New York-based landscape architect Nicholas Quennell describe why Fort Tryon Park “is one of jewels in the crown of New York park system”.

Watch more videos by TCLF on their YouTube Channel


Video: Playscape As Landscape

BEYOND NEW YORK: Playscape As Landscape – Joining Natural and Human Needs to Make Urban Space – 4.9.14

BEYOND NEW YORK: Playscape As Landscape – Joining Natural and Human Needs to Make Urban Space – 4.9.14 from Center for Architecture on Vimeo.

In addition to and as a part of its on-going series, Cocktails & Conversations, the AIANY Architecture Dialogue Committee (ADC) presents new and unusual design voices from domains outside of the committee’s normal reach. “Beyond New York” introduces the next generation of designers who are not practicing in New York City. As special opportunities arise to present fresh and unusual design perspectives to the New York Design community, the ADC strives to take advantage of them. This event, co-hosted with The American Society of Landscape Architects—New York, is one of its special events during “Landscape Architecture Month: Global Perspectives,” which focus on international projects. This fortunate alignment of shared interests gives the AIANY and ASLA-NY the occasion to present an unusually inventive way of thinking about, perceiving and designing urban space.

We host Ana Kučan, Professor of Landscape Architecture at the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, who will discuss the work of Studio AKKA, founded in 2006 by Professor Kučan and Luka Javornik. Studio AKKA is dedicated to the public domain and design landscapes using what are generally considered low budgets. The studio’s effort is oriented towards the creation of what is described as “open work.” AKKA has focused its designs on principels derived from the concept of “how a landscape looks is how it functions.” For them, landscapes are inherently conceived from within and are informed by three theoretical issues—the social construction of nature, the human idea of play, and the intrinsic and the created character of the site. Their approach to design is simple and straightforward. It is achieved through the repetitive discipline of their method, applied consistently and methodically each time. But it inevitably and always leads to different and non-repetitive results. Phenomenologically, no two results can ever be the same, since the methodology is always applied to and placed in different contexts. Studio AKKA believes the elements of landscape design—its content, form, and function—are connected in a more complex way than other visual disciplines, because the field deals with the mutability and ineffability of nature. It is precisely nature, or our representations of it as a cultural and aesthetic construct, that is the most defining factor of AKKA’s work. To create lyrical spaces, ones yet unknown, is AKKA’s mission. They believe people fundamentally need to play—a beilf that is the moving force behind their creation. They too play when they design, while combining all required prosaic rationalities and objectives in the process of making legal, usable urban spaces. Landscape design gives shape to the material world that surrounds all of us.

Professor Kučan will present AKKA Studio’s design approach through projects that realized their theoretical framework. Special attention has been given to the role of nature—specifically nature designed by humans, in humanizing urban environments to the role of play as a form of freedom of speech, and to the role of the site as the potential for the narrative.

Organized by: AIANY Architecture Dialogue Committee

Co-sponsored by: ASLA-NY