Neighborhood Design Fellowship: Gowanus

This work is part of Gowanus Action, an umbrella initiative; learn more about it here.


    Gowanus residents work toward the future they imagine for their community.


    Offered in partnership with Dark Matter University (DMU), our Neighborhood Design Fellowship: Gowanus is a paid, six-month program for up to 12 Gowanus residents — designers and non-designers alike — to work toward the future they imagine for their community. In 2021, our first cohort of Fellows considered ways design and art can make Gowanus a more equitable, inclusive place, and are sharing what they learn with local officials and the wider community.

    2021 Fellows

    Who We’re Working With


    Our Space Gowanus

    Together, the fellows are collaborating on an action campaign to bring attention to an underinvested, underutilized community center part of the Gowanus Houses NYCHA complex. With Dark Matter University, the fellows drafted and assembled this pamphlet outlining the history of disinvestment that has plagued the community center and their visions for the future of the space. In October 2021, the pamphlet was distributed at our inaugural Van Alen Block Party and displayed in large format on the street-facing windows of our office in Gowanus. The fellows are now currently planning the next phase of their action campaign.

    In the News

    Architect Magazine

    Building Relationships to Design Spatial Justice


    Design Nonprofit Launches Fellowship to Envision the Future of Gowanus

    From the Team

    Q&A with Steven Koller, Neighborhood Design Fellow

    One of our Gowanus fellows tells us about a new project to increase water quality awareness in the neighborhood.

    Q&A with A.L. Hu of Dark Matter University

    “We’re building something new, something way more inclusive and way more radical.” As a Dark Matter University faculty member interested in the intersection of design and organizing, A.L. Hu is working with our Gowanus fellowship program.

    Q&A with Nupur Chaudhury of Dark Matter University

    “I come from a family of agitators, investigators, and protesters.” As a Dark Matter University faculty member, public health urbanist Nupur Chaudhury is working with our Gowanus fellowship program.

    Project Timeline

    May – Jun 2021


    • Learn about local inclusion and equity challenges by talking to neighbors, business owners, community groups, and public officials, among others
    • Learn from DMU faculty about ways to support social justice through design
    • Study design projects that advance equity and inclusion in NYC and the US

    Jul – Aug 2021

    Make a Plan

    • Using prototypes and community feedback sessions, create a list of design ideas and recommendations to support social justice in Gowanus

    Sep – Oct 2021

    Put Ideas into Practice

    • Collaboratively bring design ideas to life with Van Alen and DMU faculty
    • Working with Van Alen and DMU, apply design recommendations toward the redesign of Van Alen’s office into public space that serves the community

    Oct 2021

    Share Work

    • Share work with the wider neighborhood for more feedback, and engage community members in ways that can advance fellows’ efforts forward


    Project Contact

    Andrew Brown

    Director of Programs