Even without knowing what the typical water treatment facility looks like I’m fairly confident that this one in New York is an outstanding example. The only other water treatment plant I can think of that is worth mentioning is this one in Connecticut designed by Steven Holl. But this isn’t a comparison of the two projects, it’s just nice when infrastructure projects consider what they look like instead of just what they do.
In New York, the folks at Ennead Architects have been transforming the Newton Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant for decades, and they still aren’t done. It hasn’t quite taken as long as basalt column formation, but it’s still a project that can legally drink. Not that it would, infrastructure projects are typically sobering in their seriousness and lack of anything that doesn’t make sense to an engineer. But sometimes you get projects like this one that almost exaggerate their engineered-ness and look like the future. It doesn’t hurt that Ennead has been helped out by the likes of Vitto Acconci and George Trakas.
It’s still a waste water treatment plant with plenty of areas and processes I’d rather not see (or smell) happening. But there’s no reason why large infrastructure projects have to be relegated to looking like places engineered to be ugly. There are plenty of bridges that get the architect treatment; they span waterways in graceful or sometimes flamboyant feats of engineering, but places like wastewater treatment plants are usually out of sight. I guess I was surprised when I came across this project and thought “what a nice place to clean putrid water.”