July 22, 2011 | USBK

Urban Studio Brooklyn - Happening Now!

Our team is spectacular. We'll start by saying that.  All nine of this year's USBK participants are bright, ambitious, passionate, talented and doing a great job of putting together their project (a rainwater collection system for Leadership Prep in Bed Stuy). We've been working together for a week and a half now, and every day has brought new and exciting challenges. 

We started off getting to know the parameters of the project, meeting the staff at Leadership Prep, and enjoying some great talks from local environmental and architectural organizations.  We heard from the LESEC about stormwater runoff in New York City, got a very special talk from GrowNYC about technical aspects of building rainwater harvesting systems, and an inspiring talk from Princeton-trained architect Gail Swithenbank on simple, sustainable solutions to some very difficult environmental problems.  We also toured some incredible places around the city - the LEED Platinum One Bryant Park (NY's most sustainable building), Brooklyn Bridge Park, the High Line, AIA exhibits and Cook + Fox's incredible panoramic city views from midtown.

Since then, we've split the group into three groups of three to start designing and put all the inspiration to good use! With only two days time, each group returned with some truly creative designs, all of which utilize found materials or things they spotted during their scouting trip to Build it Green.  We settled on one design - drawing in some great aspects of the other two - to create what we think will be a great design solution for Leadership Prep, and a beautiful addition to the garden we're installing there.

Yesterday, we headed over to the Tri-Lox wood shop in Greenpoint for a very special workshop on the process of building with reclaimed materials (as the group learned, they'll need to get out of their usual comfort zone of designing, then creating - this process will be more of a back and forth as we get new materials and modify the designs to accommodate them).  We also learned all about shop safety and got a tutorial on using some of the tools we'll have available to us.

Today will be another big day - we're finally heading over to Build it Green and Materials for the Arts to collect all of the materials we'll need to get started. The end of today will mark the beginning of the build phase, and we're all chomping at the bit to get moving on it - heat wave be damned. 

So far, we've been having an amazing time, and we can't wait to be able to report back with some more on the process. We've got some fantastic photos taken by the amazing and talented Jamel Toppin - here's just a taste of what we've been up to...

And of course, some shots of our team (no one said we were modest):