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“The original gallery burned down and was severely damaged last year in November,” said Monika Wuhrer, founder and curator of the Open Source Gallery. A 5-alarm fire in the gallery’s neighboring building destroyed it completely. Six months later, Wuhrer found a new permanent space in Park Slope and wanted to take the gallery in a new, innovative direction. “We then decided to contact about 15 architects and build it green companies.”

Walking through Park Slope, it’s easy to miss the gallery amid the historic residential townhouses. The Open Source Gallery is a small, brick, converted garage, with its original carriage doors still in place. When the curators were first moving in, the place had no heat or insulation, and the cramped space gave it more of a homely feel rather than that of an art institution. This however, is what made Open Source special and unique to the community.

“The goal of our project was to pool as many ideas as possible, then determine the best ones for implementation — ones that were simple, practical, elegant and efficient in heating our space for the winter while lowering our energy costs,” the curators said.

The open call garnered plenty of interest from  green architects and designers. The groups included Loadingdock5Build It Green! NYCRight EnvironmentsGregory Duncan ArchitectRyan Schede Studio, and Prospect Architecture. After much consideration, the gallery decided to build an energy model with the aide of Gregory Duncan. The model would document and chart the space’s energy use as they implement the energy-saving changes and improvements.

“Each idea would be viewed as an experiment. We would establish baseline data that shows our current energy use and then compare against each idea as they are implemented,” said Wuhrer. “We would also measure the effectiveness of each idea — whether it fulfilled the goal of providing adequate heat during the cold winter months.”

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Despite the diversity and creativity of many of the ideas presented to gallery, Open Source decided to narrow everything down to the immediate and fundamental. First came the ceilings, which were insulated using cellulose batt insulation between the joists, and a 24-inch wide roll (about 320 sq. ft), along with discarded small sheet and board material from Build-it Green, MDF shelving, and disassembled IKEA units, was used to create a patchwork finish to the ceiling.

Last week, a winter curtain was installed, which currently serves as an artistic heat insulation, a “visual and conceptual background for other projects to be produced and displayed in the gallery during the winter.” The fabric installation was designed by Chilean artist Felipe Mujica and is part of the gallery’s current exhibition “One Day This Will All Be Yours.”

The gallery’s next project is to install a gabion of books as insulation to fit the large carriage doors of the converted garage. The design includes pre-made gabion baskets filled with books, laced together in place against the doors. The installation will take place during a special event where the  gallery will host the community, inviting them to participate in building the gabion by bringing books to fill the baskets themselves. Once the weather becomes warm, they will deconstruct the wire baskets for re-use/recycling and donate the books.

As the gallery continues to develop, one of its main goals is to provide a space for the local community to demonstrate their own ideas “where performance art piece meets building science laboratory.” Much like the gallery itself, many locals have also created their own vision of a green future. A recent entry for consideration includes the SunBike — a mobile solar-electric system on a retrofitted cargo bike designed to meet “all kinds of street power” needs. Another interesting entry is the human power windmill, where a team of volunteers generates energy through human kinetic force.

The Gallery also hosts a daily soup kitchen throughout December, open to the entire area. “A cook is responsible for planning the community soup kitchen night,” said Wuhrer. “The chef can have music, performances, art exhibitions, etc. We often get quiet a lot of interesting characters.”

The most important aspect of the Open Source project is its overall vision to raise awareness and educate the public on green design and environmental sustainability. “This is a chance for us, as well as the community to challenge our assumptions on energy efficiency and find the solutions that are the most effective, practical and sustainable in lowering energy costs,” said Wuhrer.

+ Open Source Gallery

Photos courtesy of Open Source Gallery