You're using an unsupported browser. This site may not look optimal.

Neighborhood Design Lab: Gowanus
(In Development)

My Essex Crossing, GrandLo Café, NYC. December 8, 2019. Photo: Gigi Nieson

Do you ever walk the streets of Gowanus and daydream about what it could be? Beautiful gardens blooming from once-vacant lots. Neglected buildings revitalized into thriving centers of civic life. A cleaned-up canal lined by parks you’re proud to call your own. You know what’s best for your community. For those who want to make their visions a reality, join us!

For more than 125 years, Van Alen Institute has been working to create equitable cities through inclusive design. Our Neighborhood Design Fellowship is an opportunity for ten Gowanus residents to work toward the future they imagine for their community. Fellows will consider ways public space can strengthen the neighborhood, and share what they learn with local officials and the wider Gowanus community. Based on their learnings, fellows will also co-create a large-scale graphic display for Van Alen’s storefront window, and help Van Alen redesign its office at 303 Bond into a new public space for the neighborhood.


Team Formation
January–February 2021

Fellows Training
February–April 2021

Fellows Workshops
April–May 2021

Fellowship “Share-Back”
June–July 2021

Points of Convergence Roundtable, Long Island City, NYC. May 11, 2019.
Climate Design Lab, Miami, FL. 2019. Photo: Scott McIntyre
My Essex Crossing, GrandLo Café, NYC. December 8, 2019. Photo: Gigi Nieson
Climate Design Lab, Miami, FL. 2018. Photo: Scott McIntyre
Climate Design Lab, Miami, FL. 2018. Photo: Scott McIntyre

Van Alen is looking for Gowanus residents to participate in an seven-month-long paid fellowship program. Fellows will lead a process to remagine Van Alen’s office space into a public use. Fellows will discuss past and future development in the Gowanus neighborhood, conduct research, hold community engagement programs, and help draft a scope of services for the redesign of 303 Bond St. Fellows will need to devote 3-4 hours a week to this program — approximately 2-3 hours for weekly meetings, and 1 hour for occasional weeklyassignments. Computers will be made available at Van Alen’s 303 Bond Street office. Fellows will receive $250/month upon completing weekly meeting attendance.

Ideal Fellowship candidates meet the following criteria:

  • Resident of Gowanus neighborhood
  • Active member of Gowanus community — involvement in community organizations is preferred but not required
  • Demonstrated ability to gather and share information, communicate effectively and maintain good working relationships within a group/community setting
  • Familiar with Gowanus’ public spaces, including parks, gardens, playgrounds, streets, transit stations, canal access points, and other spaces
  • Community-oriented, friendly and respectful of diverse views and perspectives
  • Interest in learning how people experience Gowanus’ public spaces, and sharing insights with neighborhood stakeholders
  • Interest in local civic-issues, including the rezoning and cleanup of the Gowanus Canal (no prior knowledge required)
  • Curious and enthusiastic about improving and developing more public spaces in Gowanus

At the end of seven months the fellows will:

  • Learn to collaborate with urban planners, designers and elected officials
  • Understand how to build community consensus and advocate local needs
  • Develop relationships with others people in Gowanus
  • Learn about urban design, urban planning and social infrastructure
  • Rally community around its needs for public space and inspire lasting change in Gowanus

Fellows should expect to:

  • Join weekly evening two-hour video calls on Wednesdays, 6-8:30 pm (socially-distanced office space, including laptops and wifi will be made available)
  • Lead community engagement events
  • Capture and communicate residents ambitions with broader community and local leaders

Interested in becoming a Fellow or know someone who might be a good fit? Contact Andrew Brown, Associate Director of Research, at abrown@vanalen.org.