BQ Green, Brooklyn, New York.
Courtesy dlandstudio

The Architectural League’s 31st annual Emerging Voices Award brings a focus to creative practices that will influence the future direction of architecture. Each of the eight firms will deliver a lecture this month in Manhattan. The

Hold System, Queens, New York.

Her best-known projects—a speculative plan to cap the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway trench, and the Gowanus Canal Sponge Park, which would help mitigate pollution along that toxic waterway—began as grant-funded research and were later adapted into smaller, scalable forms.

A prototype portion of the Sponge Park is being built with support from a variety of public and nonprofit entities. The BQE proposal has been adapted to a site in South Williamsburg and has garnered support from local officials. A new project, which she calls the Highway Scupper, captures rainwater from elevated highways and prevents its movement into the overburdened sewer system.

Drake and her team have developed two model Scuppers, one of which is under construction in Queens, while the second one, in the Bronx, will be built this fall.

Gowanus Sponge Park segment, Brooklyn, New York.

Drake attributes her ability to operate at the scale of the object/prototype, and at the larger system-wide level, to her training as both an architect and landscape architect. Through persistence and savvy navigating multiple levels of government, she’s also become a self-taught expert in the psychology of bureaucracy.

“There is often a fear within government agencies that change might not be effective. Doing prototypes based on grant funding helps give agency cover to try new things,” Drake said. “These projects are proving very effective.”

Soon, New Yorkers will begin to see the results of Drake’s determination. She has public projects in three boroughs breaking ground this year.