Urban Gardens Aboard a Floating Habitat and Gallery
July 3, 2009 by Robin Plaskoff Horton
The Waterpod, a floating eco-habitat and interactive exhibition gallery, will study self-sufficient, water-based living while demonstrating future pathways for nomadic, mobile shelters and water-based communities, both docked and roaming. For the next five months, four artists will rotate living on board the 30-by-100-foot barge as it moves to different sites around NYC. It is currently docked in Sheepshead Bay until Sunday, July 5, after which it will be towed to Governor’s Island.
Built atop a refabricated 99? x 31? construction barge, the Waterpod is about as DIY as it gets: Living units have been constructed from found or donated materials.
Most of the food will be produced onboard. The garden will grow beets, potatoes, corn, raspberry bushes and a variety of greens, and eggs will be available from the six birds in the chicken coop, which will also provide fertilizer. All water is acquired through a rainwater-catch system, and bathroom facilities include a dry-compost toilet and a solar-heated shower.
“The Waterpod will be quite civilized,” promises Alison Ward, a sculptor who fronts the psychedelic rock band the Ruffian Arms. “We’ll eat with utensils. The Waterpod is utilitarian, but it’s also about creating a space that’s beautiful.”
On a balmy Saturday afternoon in late May, a consortium of genial, tattooed artists were preparing for a life aquatic. “It’s one big experiment,” said Mary Mattingly , a Long Island City artist, of her home for the next four months.
The Waterpod is open to the public today through Sunday from 11am-7pm. A number of artist exhibitions will be on view in the coming months. for a complete listing, see the Waterpod website event schedule.
Sunday, July 12 at 1pm, Mara Haseltine, environmental artist and science based sculptor, will be speaking and giving a demonstration showcasing her latest work, designs and structures for ‘living sculptures” to create an ultimate urban oyster reef in New York City. In addition to her talk, the artist will give a tour of her work “Modern Day Midden: Ode to Oysters Past” and related drawings, currently installed on Governors Island in “Colonel’s Row” as part of the the sculpture Guild’s show entitled “Formative Lines,” curated by the Drawing Center and on display throughout the summer season.
Haseltine will speak about her involvement in bringing the Crassotrea Virginica, or native New York oyster, back to region’s estuaries. This would create a natural filtration system to cleanse the waters stimulating a return to a level of biodiversity that has been missing in New York’s waters since the Industrial Revolution. Oysters are the backbone of the benthic habitat and act as natural water treatment plants. The average oyster filters 5-25 gallons of “nutrient” rich water per day. The restoration of 100 square miles of reef would filter twenty seven billion tons of wastewater that flows into New York’s Waterways annually. The reef would not only be a haven for oysters, but would quickly become a diverse habitat for aquatic life of all forms from gastropods to Striped Bass.