The gentrification tale of Red Hook, in Brooklyn, N.Y., ebbs and flows with the tides that crash against its shores. Named originally by Dutch settlers for its red clay and its position on the waterfront as a point of land ("hoek" in Dutch), from 1920 to 1960, Red Hook was arguably the busiest freight port in the world. The area was rife with longshoremen: On the Waterfront was filmed here in 1954. By 1988, though, LIFE magazine had named it "the crack capital of America,” and the neighborhood was largely abandoned. Red Hook is home to the city’s second-largest public housing development, and in 2008, IKEA built an outpost here, following on the heels of artists who had migrated to the area to take advantage of inexpensive real estate and the seaside atmosphere.
So what's going on in Red Hook today? Though remote—there is no direct subway access and only one bus line—the neighborhood is home to excellent restaurants, charming dive bars, and a large, sometimes familial design/build community. Hidden in Civil War–era waterfront warehouses and down cobbled streets lie thriving studios and workshops. ARCHITECT magazine took a look at five studios that give you a sense of what’s happening in Red Hook.
Day 1: Furniture workshop Uhuru designs and fabricates each of its wood-and-metal pieces, drawing materials from sustainable and salvaged sources whenever possible. Their work, featured widely throughout the design community, has a special spot this summer in the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Renwick Gallery's “40 Under 40: Craft Futures” exhibition.