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Professor: Loukia Tsafoulia

Author: Jasper (Siu Ming) Lai

             .Matthew Hangad

             .Hyun Pak

Can interactive urban landscapes elucidate natural processes that are invisible but present in cities?

Can technology built into urban form become a medium for translation, allowing environmental information imperceptible by our own sensory apparatus to be rendered legible?

How can architecture activate public space in order to inform its occupants of the intangible water quality of the Gowanus Canal?


Tubeflation is a reactive pedestrian bridge that informs the Gowanus community about the water quality of the canal via dynamic, participatory inflation and deflation operations.


For decades the Gowanus Canal saw heavy use and abuse as a major shipping and industrial center for South Brooklyn. Now the majority of the heavy industry has moved elsewhere and the neighborhood has blossomed as a vibrant residential and commercial district. New York City has begun to re-vitalize and re-claim much of its previously inhabitable waterfront. The Gowanus Canal is no exception to this new trend to “re-green” the waterfront of post-industrial zones in order to create new parks and public spaces.


Our proposed intervention is located on the threshold between the burgeoning Gowanus art and cultural scene and the remnants of the industrial heritage of the canal. Tubeflation responds to the historic fabric of the neighborhood and reflects on how the area will develop. The hypothesis addresses the rehabilitation of two separate lots, combining the post-industrial, dilapidated site of a former Iron Mill and the newly constructed Whole Foods supermarket. It engages the site at the architectural, social and ecological levels, emphasizing the integration a new public realm and addressing the emergent notion of urban ecology.


With the manufacturing processes that surrounded the canal, there was an overflow of chemical waste and still today there are efforts of restoring the canal’s purity. As storm water fills the streets and municipal sewage systems, the exhaust of waste enters the canal. Integrating and understanding the topography of the site our system collects water from regions more prone to storm water run-off,  and acting as a preliminary filtration system pumps it to inflatable pools along the pedestrian paths. These paths will span an inlet of the Gowanus, connecting land masses- which in the future may be used by the new incoming residents and workers of the Gowanus neighborhood. As more storm water fills these pools, the surrounding walkways inflate with air. The walkable surfaces will distort to a different elevation, creating landscaped relationships between the community and  the active filtration pools.

As more storm water fills these pools, a sensor will dictate the psi the system will inflate to, but will not inflate until a proximity sensor is broken. The proximity sensor will not control the entire system, rather it will control the inflatables within a radius of 30 feet. The inflation of the nearby surroundings of the occupant will engulf them, causing the storm water runoff data-driven output of inflation to encapsulate the occupants . 

Tubeflation is an intervention that promotes reciprocity and a data-driven dialogue between humans, water and their shared environment. The body of water is the membrane of another ecosystem and Tubeflation is set to create awareness of its multi-layered impact and to spark conversations by contributing to a display of collective interest in the river ecosystem.

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