Photo: Albert Vecerka / ESTO. Powerhouse Workshop 22-03, Location: Brooklyn NY, Architect: Herzog & De Meuron Architects, Client: Gemini Arts Initiative

How did a century-old abandoned industrial site on the Gowanus Canal become the city’s newest arts center and fabrication space?

Two days after the official ribbon-cutting, Powerhouse Arts – winner of this year’s Open City Award – opened its doors to the public for an open house. This first look offered an opportunity to witness this remarkable building’s transformation and rejuvenation. A former power plant built in 1903 for the Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company, the building was vacated in the 1970s. It became known to locals as “the batcave” for its cavernous and decaying interior that also served as a hive of artistic activity and expression as an illicit music venue and canvas for graffiti artists.

After a 7-year rehabilitation and construction of a new connecting building by a talented team led by Herzog & de Meuron, PBDW Architects, Urban Atelier Group, Buro Happold Engineering, Ken Smith Workshop, and Silman, Powerhouse Arts is poised to become a center for the Brooklyn art community in a new way. Its facilities include a metal fabrication shop, ceramics studio, and print shop, providing vital, affordable local manufacturing resources for artists. A 13,000-square-foot events space showcases creative work on a singularly dramatic stage: the Great Hall, formerly the power plant’s turbine room, where many of the interior surfaces, including the graffiti, have been maintained.

Open House New York at Powerhouse Arts offered the opportunity to explore this visionary example of adaptive reuse. Guests were given the opportunity for self-guided exploration of the building, and to speak to working artists in the ceramics studio and print shop.

This event was part of the NYCxDESIGN festival that took place May 18-25, 2023.

Powerhouse Arts
322 3rd Avenue
Brooklyn, NY