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BLUECITY Lab: a climate adaptation amphibious lab

Gita Nandan, Zehra Kuz & Tim Gilman-Ševčík

RETI Center, BlueCity LAB [BCL] will be the first off-grid, community-based, floating climate lab and public space in the US. It is a model and testing ground for a climate responsive architectural innovation that deploys design principles for amphibious structures supported by scientific climate adaptation research and experiments, with community education and workforce training as its social benefit focus. BCL creates a framework to transform the City’s shoreline community with post-carbon solutions.


NYC must face the reality of climate change and develop new modes of equitable adaptation and resilient waterfronts, not in 100 years but now. It is predicted we will see at minimum, six feet of sea-level rise by 2100. While political forces are negligent in building flood barriers to protect our marginalized communities, as a team of activists, planners, designers, engineers, and architects, we ask ourselves instead, How can we design and live with water now?  What is a new paradigm for equitable urban coastal inhabitation for the next 50 years? The timing is critical.


BCL envisions the possibilities of an organic amphibious structural prototype; a living, breathing dynamic and integrated ecosystem which will develop its existence entirely based on its interactions with the surrounding environment and tidal flows. BCL will be a hybrid between a vessel and a building providing a laboratory-like  training atmosphere; it will actively create net-positive loops related to energy, water, air, food, and aquamarine habitat. It is designed to be self-sustaining generating positive clean environmental systems through carbon-neutral biophilic concrete formwork, solar capture skins, aquatic kelp and mussel habitats, phytoremediation floating gardens, water-heat exchanger, anaerobic digestion, and a desalination system to name a few of the advanced technologies to be tested and showcased in BCL. BCL moors at the shoreline of a low-income community, and extends the community’s reach into New York Harbor, for social, educational, vocational and environmental benefits for the community, and as a model for others. The 13-acre waterfront of GBX Terminal, in Red Hook Brooklyn, is secured as the home.

KEYWORDS: Amphibious, carbon-capture technology, Red Hook Brooklyn, net-positive, self-sustaining, ecological restoration


Ms. Nandan is an architect, designer, educator, and leader in community resilience planning and design. She is principal of the award-winning design firm thread collective, board chair of RETI Center, and visiting associate professor at Pratt Institute GCPE and the School for Visual Arts. Ms. Nandan believes in resilience and sustainable design as an elastic and supple approach, integrating social, cultural, and economic issues with high design principles to create innovative net-positive urban environments. Working for over 20 years, Ms. Nandan has overseen design and construction on a wide range of scales, such as Concrete Waves, a skateboard stormwater capture system for youth in the Lower East Side, to an 100-acre off-grid hospitality center. Her work is at the nexus of where design meets the ecology of place, and future proofing the city, driven by finding creative solutions. M. Arch, UC Berkeley; licensed practitioner in New York and New Jersey.

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Ms.Kuz is a trained architect and working for several decades  for Edward Larrabee Barnes, J.M.Y. Lee Architects and SOM, New York. In 20005, she founded Oasis Design Lab, a New York-based architecture and engineering design practice with an environmental design focus. She is also an Adjunct Associate Professor at the Pratt Institute School of Architecture, where she co-organized the Organic Approach to Architecture symposium in 1999  and the book with the same title in 2002; authored the exhibition titled Autochthonous Architecture in Tyrol and the accompanying catalog in 1992. In addition, Ms. Kuz has taught at the City College of New York, the School of Architecture, University of Arlington, and Universitaet Innsbruck, Fakultaet fuer Architektur. She is a contributing member to RAMP, an initiative organized by Pratt Institute’s Programs for Sustainable Planning and Development in response to Superstorm Sandy, funded by Kresge Foundation.

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