One of the most polluted bodies of water in the United States is a little bit greener today thanks to a new floating garden landscape called the "GrowOnUs". Conceived by NYC-based landscape and urban design firm Balmori Associates, the buoyant bit of greenery made its debut this morning in the Gowanus Canal next to Whole Foods adjacent to the Third Street Bridge. In addition to serving as delightful spot of nature for passersby to enjoy (although it will soon change locations to the 7th St. Basin), the experimental structure will help clean the canal's water through phytoremediation and desalination, and collect rainwater in order to irrigate the herbs, flowers and other plants growing atop it.
Made possible through a $20,000 grant from the Cornelia & Michael Bessie Foundation, GrowOnUs is the latest manifestation in Balmori’s series of water-purifying infrastructures throughout the city. The firm is also interested in seeing how the filter-like gardens can generate income by producing edible plants.
“We have pioneered floating landscapes, we now want to learn what can make these floating structures financially sustainable,” said Balmori Associates founder Diana Balmori. “Dr. Michael Balick at the New York Botanical Garden suggested we grow herbs, low maintenance crops that can give a financial return given their price per volume. In a few years NYC restaurants may be serving meals and drinks infused with herbs grown on one of these islands.”
The plants in GrowOnUs are housed in metal culvert pipes (the same kind used to carry polluted runoff and sewage waste into the canal) of different heights. A total of 54 “test tubes” contain over 30 different plants that will be studied for their ability to clean water in distinct ways ranging from phytoremediation (the use of plants and associated microorganisms to stabilize or reduce contamination in soils, sludges, sediments, surface water, or ground water) to desalination, as well as viability for usage as sources of natural dye. Coconut fibers, bamboo, mycelium, and recycled plastic were also used to create the verdant island landscape.
GrowOnUs will remain on the canal for a one-year testing period. If the experiment proves successful, the next step would be to create productive floating landscapes on a larger scale.
Photos and video: Yuka Yoneda for Inhabitat