Selldorf CSO Owls Head

Gowanus CSO Facility, Owls Head

Brooklyn, NY

Selldorf Architects is designing a second Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) Facility in Brooklyn for the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, teamed with Executive Architects and Engineers Hazen and Sawyer, Brown and Caldwell, and SCAPE Landscape Architecture. As part of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Gowanus Canal clean-up plan, categorized as a Superfund site in 2010, the Owls Head CSO facility will be situated at the bend of the Canal on a triangular peninsula, further south of the CSO Red Hook site.

Selldorf’s two CSO projects will have the combined capacity to intercept and store up to 12 million gallons of sewage overflow during rain events, protecting the Canal from pollution. Owls Head’s design includes a 24,750 sf Headhouse to support a four-million-gallon underground tank, two acres of waterfront public open space, as well as the relocation and redesign of a Salt Shed for the New York City Department of Sanitation.

The overall design prioritizes waterfront access with landscape design by SCAPE that elevates the unique ecological qualities of Gowanus. Substantially expanding the neighborhood’s available outdoor public spaces, the site will offer opportunities for recreation, including New York City’s first ADA- accessible boat launch, community gathering spaces and an amphitheater for outdoor performances with views across the Canal. An educational interpretative program throughout the site will explain the facility’s function, the history of the Canal, and the ongoing ecosystem restoration.

Fostering a sense of place and community, Selldorf’s design for Owls Head balances the unique industrial vernacular of Gowanus with an appreciation of the natural systems of the Canal. Drawing inspiration from the rich context of the architectural surroundings, the building utilizes a sculptural concrete formwork that creates a unified façade that is at once monolithic and tactile.

Concrete is employed as both the primary structural and expressive material selected for its restrained and utilitarian qualities. The Headhouse is an ensemble of rectilinear volumes comprised of tubular cast-in-place concrete walls, echoing the industrial silos historically found along the Gowanus waterway. Custom windows designed in the same tubular pattern blend seamlessly with the concave formwork, creating an uninterrupted dynamic effect. Large odor control vessels and ductwork are painted bright green contrasting with the project’s overall neutral palette resulting in a playful expression of the facility’s functional elements.