The Sunset Park Material Recovery Facility is a processing center for New York City’s curbside metal, glass, and plastic recyclables undertaken by Sims Municipal Recycling and the City of New York. Located on an 11-acre waterfront pier in Sunset Park, the design’s programmatic use as a recycling center inspired reuse throughout.
The masterplan organizes buildings to support functionality, creates distinct circulation systems to separate visitors from operations, and adds two acres of native plantings. Buildings are organized to create the site’s own urban context. The 140,000 sf facility includes a Tipping Building, where recyclables arrive by barge; Processing and Bale Storage Buildings; and an Administrative and Education Center. The Education Center contains programs for students and the public including classrooms, exhibitions, and interactive demonstration displays. A pedestrian bridge connects the Education Center to a viewing platform inside the Processing Facility, offering visitors a chance to view the recycling process first hand.
Working with a pre-engineered building, one of the design challenges was to find ways to articulate the program and give an overall expression to the facility that would distinguish it from ordinary big box construction. In response, structural elements are inverted to appear on the exterior, giving steel girders and lateral bracing a greater visual impact.
The facility makes a major environmental contribution by delivering recyclables by barge—a strategy which eliminates 240,000 miles of annual vehicle travel from roadways. Recycled materials are used throughout: site fill is made from a composite of recycled glass, asphalt, and rock reclaimed from the Second Avenue subway construction; buildings are made from recycled steel; and plazas are finished with recycled glass. Other sustainable measures include one of the largest applications of photovoltaics in New York, a wind turbine, and bioswales for stormwater management.
(Photography credits: John Majors, Nikolas Koenig, Marc Lins, Nicholas Venezia, Selldorf Architects)