Susannah C. Drake ASLA, AIA is the Principal of dlandstudio pllc, an award winning multidisciplinary design firm. dlandstudio’s public projects include the Gowanus Canal Sponge Park™, the Brooklyn Bridge Pop-up Park, BQGREEN park in Williamsburg, scupper sponge cells in Flushing, and the security for the New York City Police Department headquarters in lower Manhattan. dlandstudio partnered with ARO on the 2010 MoMA rising currents exhibition proposing a transformation of lower Manhattan’s street infrastructure and coastline to increase city climate change resilience. dlandstudio is the recipient of National and International design urban design awards from the AIA, ASLA and Chicago Athenaeum among others.
Susannah received a Bachelor’s of Arts Degree from Dartmouth College and MArch and MLA degrees from the Harvard Graduate School of Design. She is the recipient of grants from the Graham Foundation, New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission, The James Marston Fitch Foundation and the New York State Council on the Arts for research on campus landscapes and large scale urban infrastructure projects. Susannah is the former President and Trustee of The New York ASLA, Trustee of the Van Alen Institute and visiting studio professor at the Cooper Union and Harvard University. She is the author of Elastic Landscape: Seeding Ecology in Public Space & Urban Infrastructure which was recently published in the collection of essays entitled Infrastruktururbanismus.
Projects & Links
Gowanus Canal Sponge Park
Working closely with the Gowanus Canal Conservancy, local residents, government agencies, and elected officials, dlandstudio created preliminary designs for a new kind of public open space, a Sponge Park™. The design equally values the aesthetic, programmatic, and productive importance of treating contaminated water flowing into the Canal.
The park is designed as a working landscape; the system improves the environment of the canal over time. This innovative plan proposes strategies to divert excess storm water runoff for use in the public park along the canal reducing the input of rain water into the sewer system. The plants included in dlandstudio’s design draw heavy metals and biological toxins out of contaminated water. In addition, floating remediation wetlands incorporate a mixture of aquatic organisms that absorb or break down organic toxins, heavy metals, and biological contaminants from sewage.
The potential for universal implementation of the Sponge Park™ system to other cities for urban water management is one of its principal strengths. The first street end park within the Sponge Park™ system will be completed by 2012 through funding from a U.S. EPA grant being administered by the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission. In addition to this pilot park, dlandstudio was recently awarded a NYCDEP grant to build a Sponge Park™ in the Flushing Bay Watershed in Flushing, Queens.
AIA Institute Honor Award for Regional and Urban Design, 2011
ASLA, National Professional Honor Award, 2010
BSA, Award for Urban Regeneration 2009
Chicago Athenaeum, American Architecture Award 2009
ASLA New York Chapter, Unbuilt Works Award 2008
BQGREEN: Reviving South Williamsburg
The Brooklyn Queens Expressway (BQE) was originally proposed by the Regional Plan Association in the mid-1930s to mitigate traffic congestion, facilitate industrial development, and strengthen the connection between the boroughs of New York City. Robert Moses, as chair of the Tri-borough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, charted its path through Queens and Brooklyn. The construction of the BQE left a trail of divided neighborhoods in its wake.
This project developed strategies to reconnect these neighborhoods and ameliorate the associated environmental impacts. We reconceived the highway and adjacent areas as a productive spine by introducing ecological elements to vestigial spaces that enhance the performance of the street, maximizing its potential as a true public amenity.
In 2010, dlandstudio conducted a feasibility study of decking a four block section of the highway in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. dlandstudio held community meetings and met with area stakeholders to gather community input and garner support. The resulting 92-page report outlined existing neighborhood issues, summarized community feedback, and developed a three-stage plan for creating an open space that truly serves the community.
New York State Council on the Arts Individual Artist Grant
ASLA New York Chapter, Award 2007
AIA New York Chapter Design Awards, Urban Design Merit Award 2010
One Police Plaza Security Upgrade
The approach to security upgrades surrounding the Police Headquarters site in downtown Manhattan sought to integrate necessary security features with strategies for improving the existing urban landscape, and reducing city infrastructure impacts. This included consideration of a unified urban language of security elements as well as basic streetscape features of curb, sidewalk pavement, and bollards.
The intention was to integrate elements of both security and streetscape to create a more productive street edge that not only protects the police campus from security threats, but also collects, retains, and filters the existing street run-off from vehicular and pedestrian hardscapes. The design of bollard foundations, curbs, paving, and sidewalk swales were fully integrated with each other in an attempt to design new prototypes for security that could provide the additional benefit of reducing storm water impacts on the city’s combined sewer system.
MOMA RISING CURRENTS EXHIBITION: A NEW URBAN GROUND
The incremental rise in the world’s sea level and increased frequency of stronger storms caused by climate change put low-lying coastal areas at risk from inundation and flooding. Taking into account rapid polar ice cap melt, scientists predict a six foot sea level rise by the year 2100. This projection would inundate 21% of Lower Manhattan at high tide as the water passes over the existing sea wall. The need to address this urgent challenge is the focus of Rising Currents.
dlandstudio and ARO’s holistic proposal unites harbor ecologies and urban infrastructure to create a flexible and adaptive future for Lower Manhattan to manage sea level rise, flooding, and surface water runoff. By aligning the advantages of naturally-occurring and engineered systems, this new urban paradigm transforms the city in both performance and experience. Over time, currents, tides, and storms cause an evolution of the morphology of the coastline and the local flora and fauna that it supports. Climate change and increasing population are now challenging us to be an active part of this morphology as well. A rich varying ecological succession is set in motion for generations of New Yorkers to experience. In essence, Manhattan will re-invent itself yet again by developing in tandem with natural systems.
dlandstudio and ARO are currently meeting with city and private agencies such as the New York City Department of City Planning and the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation to develop a feasibility study to implement the project strategies.
Sidney Place Residence
At the Sidney Place Residence in Brooklyn, New York, spare use of color, attention to finish and passion for minimalist detail characterize the interior and exterior space of this Brooklyn brownstone. The yard’s neutral palate of dark grey stone, stainless steel, and glass, helps accentuate the intensity of verdant hedges and lawn. Boxwood (Buxus microphylla), Winter Jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum), Star Magnolia (Magnolia stelatta), and Oakleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) were chosen to soften the manicured formality of the geometry and to provide seasonal and textural interest. On an upper deck, moss and ferns create a soothing, restful atmosphere in this aerie adjacent to the master bedroom. Water is carried along the top of a black concrete parapet wall down to the garden below where it is then used for a fountain and to irrigate the garden. On the garden level, redirected storm water travels along a runnel set in the top of a black concrete wall until it cascades down in a smooth sheet over a polished stone panel. A black concrete wall with an integrated fountain captures roof water and creates both foil and focal point to the reclaimed teak fence that wraps the other two sides of the space.