Axis Civitas

Submission: July 31, 2015
Registration May 15, 2015
Language: English
LocationBrooklyn, USA
PrizesTotal of US $7,500
Type: Student & Young Architects


Gowanus by Design presents its third international design competition, “Axis Civitas.” The two-component competition asks participants to first map and present conditions  relevant to the Gowanus area in a Gowanus Atlas and second to use that analysis as  the basis for their design of an Urban Field Station that is open to the public.


Despite being a poster child for the negative impact of 19th and 20th century industry  and resulting toxic waterway, the Gowanus neighborhood today offers a rich diversity of  uses, demographics, history, and opportunity for growth. The Gowanus Atlas will  synthesize the area’s underlying characteristics, positive and negative, and visually  explain in the Urban Field Station how complex urban and ecological conditions can be  assessed for their impact on 21st century planning strategies. It is the goal of GbD to not  only aggregate, collect, and distribute content specific to the area, but also to reveal the  conditions that define the area in Brooklyn known as “Gowanus” and influence its  evolution.

With an abundance of community voices with shared and diverging opinions on what is best for the area’s future, participants are also encouraged to reach out to local community groups (see Resources) to learn how their goals fit within the larger context of a shifting urban context and how they can be represented.

With the recent start of construction for a 700-unit residential building and a nearby large parole center for the Department of Correction on the banks of the canal less than two years after Hurricane Sandy, the Environmental Protection Agency’s [EPA] announcement last year of a ten-year clean up plan for the Superfund site, and the Department of Environmental Protection’s Long Term Control Plan to reduce Combined Sewer Overflows [CSOs] in the watershed, the community has been forced to grapple with the conflicting impacts of hazardous subsurface conditions, private development, agency oversight, CSOs, and global warming. The competition is a reaction to these forces and is intended to address the lack of a coherent sustainable urban strategy for this area of Brooklyn.

Together, the Atlas and Field Station will present how conditions have shifted and continue to be affected by the ongoing changes in the watershed; the community will learn how these changes not only impact the neighborhood now, but how they affect projections that speculate on its future over blocks of time – 10, 20, 50, 100, and 500 years. GbD envisions this becoming a research-driven project that will compile performance-based impacts rather than reacting to prescriptive planning objectives, as is the norm.


  1. Collect, research, synthesize, and visualize the changing conditions in and around  the Gowanus.
  2. Provide the community new resources so future decisions on growth and  development may be fully evaluated.
  3. Support the voices of various community groups in the Gowanus area.
  4. Help physically define the Gowanus neighborhood.
  5. Encourage performance-based planning strategies.
  6. Speculate on the impact of changing conditions over the next 10, 20, 50, 100, and  500 years.


Prizes will be awarded to the 1st place, 2nd place, and honorable mention winners. A total of $7,500 will be distributed to the winners at the discretion of the jury and the competition committee. A select group of entries will be included in a public exhibit and presented to agencies and local elected officials to help influence the city’s effort to rezone the Gowanus neighborhood.


Team leaders must be ages 21 and over (supervised school groups are encouraged to submit). Teams are encouraged and the competition committee also encourages the participation of at least one design professional on each team. Gowanus by Design retains the right to automatically disqualify any submission received after July 31, 2015. Registrants must conform to the above submission requirements; any discrepancies to said requirements are subject to automatic disqualification. By submitting a design to the competition, entrants understand and agree that all materials become the property of the Gowanus Urban Design Community Advocacy, Inc. (aka “Gowanus by Design”) and may be used in its promotional materials without compensation to the entrant(s). By submitting, entrants represent that all images and content are original and permission has been obtained to use any copyrighted and/or trademarked material. Design copyrights remain with the submitting individuals/team members. GbD, its members, and all other parties related to this competition are not responsible for lost submissions or digital delays. Winners and those chosen for exhibition may be asked to submit a brief written description of their entries and mounted presentations prior to the exhibition in Fall 2015. All student entries selected for the exhibit will require verification that each team member (except for the supervisors) is a student.


  • Susannah C. Drake FASLA AIA, Principal, dlandstudio
  • David J. Lewis AIA, Principal, LTL Architects
  • Brian McGrath, Dean, School of Constructed Environments, Parsons The New  School For Design
  • Andrea Parker, Executive Director, Gowanus Canal Conservancy
  • Richard A. Plunz, Professor of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation, Columbia  University
  • Robert M. Rogers FAIA, Partner, Rogers Partners
  • Claire Weisz FAIA, Principal, WXY architecture + urban design
  • Adam Yarinsky FAIA LEED AP, Principal, Architecture Research Office


Competition registration opens Monday, November 24, 2014.

The deadline for registration is Friday, May 15, 2015.

The deadline for submission is Friday, July 31, 2015, 11:59 pm EDT


Professional: $75 per individual or team entry

Student (full-time enrollment in an educational institution): 
$50 per individual or team entry

For grouped entries of two or more that propose one Urban Field Station: 
$40 per entry  (e.g. five grouped entries = $200)