GSD brains + Brooklyn Brawn = innovative lab

On a lovely summer evening in late July, 150 GSD students, alumni and friends gathered on a Brooklyn rooftop, as the sun set over Manhattan. The site was the New Lab a project infused with the energy and creativity of GSD alumni and friends. The lab inhabits a temporary facility in the Brooklyn Navy Yard where innovation in design, prototyping and new manufacturing are de rigueur. Embracing the Navy Yard’s industrial past, the New Lab envisions the “sustainable industrial park of the future” – it provides equipment, office space and other resources for tenants, creating an incubator for design and entrepreneurship.

Hosted in the lab’s temporary Beta site, guests looked out onto the construction of the new 84,000 square foot facility, designed by GSD alumni John Marvel (MArch ‘86). The cocktail reception was co-sponsored by the Harvard Graduate School of Design Alumni Relations Office and Mitch Joachim (MAUD ’02) and Maria Aiolova (MAUD ’02), co-founders of Terreform ONE, a tenant in the New Lab, which “aims to integrate the ecological possibilities of New York City and inspire like-minded projects in urban centers worldwide.”

Brooklyn Navy Yard hosts Maria Aioloa and Mitch Joaquim speak to the crowd

The event built on the success of several previous GSD Recent Graduate Receptions. Many made the trek from their Manhattan offices to be inspired by the visible display of collaborative innovation, and included representatives from the class of 2013 who were happy to reconvene in their adopted city. “I love seeing what people are working on outside of the conventional architecture/ landscape/ urban design parameters. I connected with several recent graduates and alumni, including a lot of people that I didn’t realize were working in New York, which was really great,” reported Karyssa Halstead (MLA ’13).

After some brief remarks, Joachim and Aiolova led guided tours through the cavernous space, identifying design projects in various stages of development. Guests commented on the palpable creativity and spirit of collaboration. “The event provided great insight into a range of design innovation taking place at the Brooklyn Navy Yard and it was a delight to find young GSD graduates leading the way. I saw my friends and had a chance to meet some inspiring recent graduates,” said GSD Alumni Council member Jeff Murphy (MArch ’86).

Brooklyn Navy Yard event participants listen to speakers

By engaging in both job creation and job training, the New Lab intends to have a profound impact on economic growth in the area and provide benefits to the surrounding community. Demonstrated by the number of GSD alumni engaged, it is evident that GSD brains are an important driver within the New Lab. Joachim reflected, “There is an enormous value to reconnecting with our friends from within the GSD community. The synergy in the room is almost unparalleled, as we hear about our colleagues’ triumphs. The opportunities for cross-linking new projects is limitless.” It’s more proof positive of the GSD network in action.

Photos: Stephanie Berger