Embodied power at river’s edge: reimagining Indian Point

What happens to a building when its original purpose disappears? Other than becoming a costly landfill, what alternative paths exist to give such structures their next lease on life?

These are the kinds of questions that HALF – LIFE, an option studio co-taught by Architecture Professor of the Practice Florian Idenburg and Lecturer Jonathan Molloy (both of the architecture and design firm SO – IL), is exploring with twelve undergraduate and graduate students studying at the Gensler Family AAP NYC Center this semester as they consider the adaptive reuse potential of the Indian Point Energy Center.

“The studio asks students to consider the relationship between energy, material, and experience,” Idenburg explains. “It’s a complex studio dealing with expansive concepts of time. The outcome of the studio is very diverse. Students are picking up on different things and developing a variety of ideas, all proposing alternate futures for this complicated site along the Hudson River.”

From its opening in the 1960s until the shutdown of its last reactor in April 2021, Indian Point was a site of promise and tension. Surrounded by the bucolic landscape of the Hudson Valley, the nuclear plant generated high-paying jobs and carbon-free power for an energy-hungry New York City only 35 miles down the river, yet concerns about pollution, accidents, earthquake risk, and the aging infrastructure of the facility – especially one in such close proximity to the largest city in the U.S. – fueled a protest movement that dogged the plant throughout its life. Now that it has ceased operations, however, achieving the state’s renewable energy goals presents new challenges and the property remains a storage space for spent nuclear fuel with no relocation options currently available.

On a grey day last February, it was with this context in mind that the studio visited the plant’s 240-acre property, now owned by Holtec International, a New Jersey decommissioning firm. Holtec’s work of the past two years has primarily focused on the de-fueling of the plant (a process also not without contention) and the built structures have so far been left largely untouched.

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