A rendering of Herzog & de Meuron’s design for the “Batcave” building in Gowanus, Brooklyn.

Herzog & de Meuron to Transform Brooklyn’s “Batcave” into an Arts Center

Architects Herzog & de Meuron have been tapped to overhaul Brooklyn’s “Batcave”––a former Brooklyn Rapid Transit power station built in 1904 that became home to a squatter community decades later––by converting it into an arts center, Matt A. V. Chaban of the New York Times reports.

The Powerhouse Environmental Arts Foundation, a Brooklyn-based nonprofit, initiated the plans to renovate the building and transform it into a hub for producing art. Dubbed the Powerhouse Workshop, the venue will become a community studio, of sorts, for metalworking, woodworking, printmaking, and ceramics. It will also serve as an exhibition space.

The foundation bought the “Batcave” for $7 million in 2012 and has spent the past four years surveying artists to determine what it should be used for. It’s currently projecting that the Powerhouse Workshop will create more than one hundred jobs.

While the building needs to be almost completely reworked, due to significant structural damage, the architects plan on staying true to the building’s character. Over the years it has become a graffiti landmark along the Gowanus Canal. “It’s an incredible legacy for us to build on,” Katie Dixon, the foundation’s executive director, said. “There are so many layers here, we don’t want to take any away. We simply want to add our own.”

Herzog & de Meuron’s recent projects include London’s Tate Modern addition, which was reviewed by Julian Rose in the September 2016 issue of Artforum. The firm has created a design that occupies the footprint of the original building. The new six-story structure will be rectangular with a flat roof, which might be glass to keep its current open view of the sky.

The foundation has not released a budget for the project but has already invested $400,000. Construction will begin in the fall. It hopes to start welcoming artists to the space in 2020. Dixon said, “The building has long been a destination for artists, and we wanted to keep it that way.”