Graffiti Heaven

Herzog & de Meuron will transform Brooklyn’s “Batcave” into an art powerhouse

Art East Preservation
Brooklyn's
Brooklyn's "Batcave" will be transformed into an art powerhouse. (Courtesy Herzog and de Meuron)

Swiss firm Herzog & de Meuron are a dab hand when it comes to converting power stations, especially the brick kind. Slathered in graffiti, the “Batcave” in Brooklyn began life as a rapid transit power plant in 1904. Come the 1950s however, the Thomas E. Murray–designed station had been decommissioned and in the decades that followed morphed into a punk squat and venue for New York’s edgiest parties. Now the 113-year-old building will be reincarnated once again, this time as a manufacturing center for the arts, courtesy of Herzog & de Meuron.

(Courtesy Herzog and de Meuron)

(Courtesy Herzog and de Meuron)

The “Batcave” will be a place for metal, wood, ceramic, textile and print production. Emulating their hugely successful approach to the former Bankside Power Station in London (now the Tate Modern), the focal point of Herzog & de Meuron’s renovation revolves around the existing Turbine Hall. Here, space will be configured to create workshops. In addition to this, the Boiler House which was once demolished will be rebuilt.


“By preserving, restoring and reconstructing essential elements of the original Power Station—some still intact and some long-ago demolished—this design strengthens its relationship to the immediate urban context,” said Ascan Mergenthaler, senior partner at Herzog & de Meuron in a press release. “The aim is to demonstrate sensitivity to the program by integrating existing layers seamlessly into a functional, modern manufacturing facility.”

(Courtesy Herzog and de Meuron)

(Courtesy Herzog and de Meuron)

Residing on the banks of the Gowanus Canal, the “Batcave” got its name at the turn of the century when it became a hotspot for young urban explorers and artists who enamored its walls. Graffiti expert Henry Chalfant was invited to the Batcave to see if there was any wall art of historical significance. “If this place is renovated, it would be great if these interior walls were kept as they were and not made pristine again,” he told the New York Times.

Construction is due to begin this year and be completed by 2020. The facility will be run by the Powerhouse Environmental Arts Foundation. The foundation picked up the site in 2012 for $7 million and began environmental remediation under the New York State Brownfield Cleanup Program.

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