Independent Projects Spotlight: BlueBlock Reef Garden and Harnessing Sound from Knit Textiles

Two recipients of The Architectural League and NYSCA’s Independent Projects grant program present their projects.

April 30, 2024
12:00 p.m.

Left: "Harnessing Sound from Knit Textiles." Image credit: Anthony Dicembre. Right: "BlueBlock Reef Garden." Image courtesy Gita Nandan

This spring, The Architectural League will spotlight projects by recipients of the Independent Projects grant program in a series of lunchtime conversations exploring completed and in progress work.

Independent Projects is a competitive grant program that is open to New Yorkers who work in any of the design fields. Administered as a partnership between the League and the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA), Independent Projects supports self-generated projects in design practice and research that seek to answer the question: where can design go next? 

The program will feature presentations by grant recipients followed by a discussion and audience Q&A, moderated by a member of the League’s staff.

Proposals will be accepted for the 2024 Independent Projects cycle until May 22, 2024. Please visit for more information and instructions on how to apply. 

Spotlight Projects

BlueBlock Reef Garden
Elliott Maltby and Gita Nandan
New York, NY
Independent Projects recipients, Grantee 2022–2023

The design of the BlueBlock Reef Garden is conceived to mimic an integrated ecological system that supports life along a deep sectional column from the seafloor to the sun’s rays in a closed-loop microcosm. Elliott Maltby and Gita Nandan explored several interconnected material aspects, from kelp farming to the by-product of kelp-crete, and the biophilic nature of seaborne infrastructure. Education and community interaction were key outreach aspects to engage a wider audience around restoration and the future of New York City’s harbor.

Harnessing Sound from Knit Textiles
Melissa Conroy and Anthony Dicembre
Ithaca, NY
Independent Projects recipients, Grantee 2023–2024

An exploration at the crossroads of textile design, music, and sensory experience, this project will develop a collection of knit textile instruments that harness sound, offering new responsive performance and sound modulation opportunities for artists, including collaborator MeeAe Caughey. Textile designer Melissa Conroy and musician Anthony Dicembre will create and test a variety of musical instruments for responsiveness and user experience to zero in on the most versatile and responsive soft instruments.

About the presenters

Elliot Maltby is a landscape architect “deeply committed to public space, with a particular focus on the intersection of social and ecological conditions,” in her own words. She is co-founder of the design firm thread collective. Her professional work includes the first farm on public housing property in New York City.

Gita Nandan is an architect, urban designer, and educator focused on community resilience planning and design. She is cofounder and principal of the design firm thread collective, founder of RETI Center, and adjunct associate professor at Pratt Institute Graduate Center for Planning and Environment and School of Visual Arts.

MeeAe Caughey is a Butoh-inspired dancer, choreographer, and video artist. She has performed globally in theaters, festivals, clubs, and museums, including The Kitchen and Theater for a New City. Currently located in Ithaca, New York, Caughey collaborates with a wide variety of artists and produces performances and videos featuring local dancers and guest artists.

Melissa Conroy is an interdisciplinary artist, educator, and textile designer. She is a senior lecturer in the department of Human Centered Design at Cornell University, where she specializes in surface design and knit structure and design. Conroy’s work has been exhibited in galleries and museums across America and in Europe.


The 2024 Independent Projects Partnership is made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature.