2015 - Brooklyn, NY, USA



SIZE 125.7 square feet / STATUS Completed 2015 / DESIGN TEAM Balmori Associates

GrowOnUs Floating Landscape in the Gowanus Canal

An experiment to clean water through phytoremediation, desalination and rainwater collection to irrigate productive floating gardens.

Balmori Associates has designed, fabricated and is launching a floating landscape in Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal, one of the most polluted bodies of water in the United States. The floating infrastructure is one in a series of projects Balmori has designed to act as sponges that filter and clean water and provide wildlife habitats in the city. Floating infrastructures can adapt to and address rising seas.

GrowOnUs, an experiment in floating infrastructure was launched on Friday September 18 at 11am at the Third Street Bridge in Brooklyn, NY.

The project was funded through a $20,000 grant Balmori Associates and the Gowanus Canal Conservancy received from the Cornelia & Michael Bessie Foundation to research and create a floating productive garden in the Gowanus Canal. Once a hub for maritime and commercial activity, the Gowanus Canal has captured industrial waste products from factories located along its banks; and during heavy storms, combined sewer overflows (CSOs) bring not only stormwater to the canal but also untreated human and industrial waste, toxic materials, and debris.

GrowOnUs transforms metal culvert pipe into planters. These are the same pipes used to bring the polluted runoff and sewage waste to the canal. Each of the 54 test tubes isolate different experiments in plants (over 30 plants selected for phytoremediation and natural dye production), various watering conditions (clean water through phytoremediation, desalinate canal brackish water through evaporation and condensation and collect rainwater), as well as a variety of buoyant construction materials (coconut fibers, bamboo, mycelium, and matrix of recycled plastic.)

GrowOnUs will be monitored to study the viability of producing large scale edible floating landscapes in cities with polluted rivers. It will also further explore other functions with urban potential as a multi-functional green infrastructure: shoreline protection, biodiverse habitats, energy production, and public space.

Diana Balmori, discussing the project commented: ‘We have pioneered floating landscapes, we now want to learn what can make these floating structures financially sustainable. 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.’

Similar to green roofs or linear parks in place of traffic medians, floating landscapes exist on the edges and underutilized spaces within cities. Whereas green roofs exist as an intersection between landscape and architecture, floating islands are a model of the interface and transitions between the river, the landscape and the city. 

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GrowOnUs press release
GrowOnUs brochure

São Paulo Corporate Towers

2017 - São Paulo, Brazil

São Paulo Corporate Towers

São Paulo, Brazil

STATUS Completed 2017 / DESIGN TEAM Balmori Associates / Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects / Atelier 10 / PHOTO CREDIT Pelli Clark Pelli Architects

The landscape design for the project is driven by the character of the Mata Atlantica Forest found on the site. Only 9% of this Brazilian ecosystem remains in the world and a few disconnected patches of this forest exists in São Paulo. Our project celebrates its biodiversity and spatial richness in the urban landscape of São Paulo.

São Paulo Corporate Towers’ landscape follows the spatial rhythm, heights and patterns of the forest as it weaves across the site and through the two towers of the architectural program.  Tree canopies of various heights create magical outdoor spaces of dappled sunlight and shade, providing a cooler environment. Landforms accentuate the display of the vegetation in their multiple canopy layers. A large green roof accessible by a series of ramps becomes a link between the two towers and integrates the amenity building. An elevated metal path weaving through the site and becoming a public sidewalk on the street offers a unique experience of walking in the canopies of trees. The collection of rain water on site and the selection of native species with lower water demand, allows for minimum irrigation.

Beale Street Landing




CLIENT Riverfront Development Corp / SIZE 5 acres / 20,235 m2 / STATUS Completed 2015 / DESIGN TEAM Balmori Associates / RTN Architects / Bounds & Gillepsie Architects / Consulmar / L'Observatoire International PHOTO CREDIT Aeria Innovation

A twenty-five-foot bluff rises from a once busy commercial harbor in Memphis' old downtown, which, like many American waterfront cities, historically turned its back on the river that was once its lifeblood. 

Balmori Associate’s design consists of a series of level, landscaped islands formed in the terraced slope of the river’s edge, highlighting the tidal changes at the river’s edge, which can exceed forty feet. The intent of the design was for public space to interact with the changing levels of the river. The islands are each planted with a distinct native plant community of Western Tennessee, strategically corresponding to the fluctuating levels of water inundation.   Water collected on site is filtered and cleaned through vegetated terraces and then stored in a cistern for reuse in irrigation.  Each island creates a unique public space, including a river overlook, a children’s play area, a performance space and wetland gardens, choreographed with the changes in The Mississippi River.  

The five-acre riverfront park is the departure and arrival point for thousands of river travelers and will provide a destination point for individuals and groups to celebrate the spot where the world’s most powerful river engages the home of the blues.

Making Circles in the Water




CLIENT Metis International Garden Festival, Reford Gardens / SIZE 150 m2 /STATUS Completed, 2011 /DESIGN TEAM Balmori Associates / Denis Pelli: Professor of Psychology and Neural Science, New York University / Carlos M. Brañas: Marine engineer, Consulmar S.R.L

Waterscapes allow for powerful horizontal views that let the eye to extend far along the horizon, providing a pleasurable experience which is a unique and an inseparable condition of landscape. Balmori Associates studied forms that are capable of shaping the way one apprehends space in order to make the viewer more conscious of the act of seeing. The viewing device chosen for this demonstration was a truncated cone with openings on either end. 

These vision cones were then implemented within a series of large planes with circular openings, scaled to allow humans to pass through the space.  The voids created by the circular openings gradually rose from the ground, shifting your view and relationship to the landscape as you transcended the space. By progressing through the frames towards the water the field of view incrementally opened up, allowing the horizon to gradually reveal itself.

Meditation Room: Reflecting on Horizon




The horizon line is one crucial reference when experiencing landscape. What distinguishes a city from all other places are the multiple horizon lines stacked over one another, receding or advancing towards you, creating an effect of constriction and enclosure. The search for the sense of an open horizon is partly satisfied in an urban park: perhaps the real pleasure an urban park provides is not through its vegetation, as assumed, but its release from the constricted horizon line.

In Meditation Room: Reflecting on Horizon, commissioned by the City of Atlanta for ELEVATE 2015, the reflection of the sky and the earth introduces a new clear fabricated horizon in an otherwise congested urban panorama. Members of the public are invited to come in for a five minute meditation, a pause, to connect with the sense of an expansive horizon in the smallest of spaces.

Diana Balmori wrote in Drawing and Reinventing Landscape (Wiley, 2014) that “Landscape architecture is an art of peripheral vision. Peripheral vision is essential for understanding and appreciating landscape; central vision alone cannot capture it.”

Reflecting on Horizon is part of an ongoing series of experimental art installations from Balmori that explore themes such as peripheral vision by creating meditative experiences in the urban realm.

Balmori Associates completed its first meditation room, Meditation Room: Horizon presented by The Drawing Center for the New Museum’s Ideas City Festival 2015. In September, “Making Horizon” opened at the 10th China (Wuhan) International Garden Expo. Read more