(l to r) Principal Partners at Eray/Carbajo Gonzalo Carbajo, Pinar Guvenc and Inanc Eray,
(l to r) Principal Partners at Eray/Carbajo Gonzalo Carbajo, Pinar Gven and Inan Eray,

If youve ever wondered what was really happening inside the amorphous gray monolith of buildings known as The Brookyn Navy Yard, rest assured, its a great deal.

For one, as a major manufacturing hub, there is a lot of design development, building and innovation taking place around the clock.

A great example is Eray Carbajo, a Turkey-based architectural design firm with an office in The Brooklyn Navy Yard, run almost singlehandedly by the companys three main partners, Inan Eray, Gonzalo Carbajo and Pinar Gven.

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Only two weeks ago, the design team of Eray, Carbajo, Gven and a fourth team member, Marco Mattia Cristofori, received an award in Italy for its latest design of a bikini bathing suit.

Architects winning an award for a bathing suit, you say? But these arent your run-of-the mill designersthey design everything from furniture, to museums, to homeless shelters to clothing. And their winning concept is hardly what you expect in a bathing suit. The suit is made of a sponge material that is water-resistant, cleans the ocean and it is recyclable!

We understand design as a modus operandi, and we see architecture as a broader exercise, said Carbajo, 37, who is originally from Argentina. From graphic design, to industrial design, to a setup of a city, were trying to make the world. We have no boundaries for what we design.

Eray, 35, who is from Turkey, met Carbajo more than a decade ago in London. Carbajo had been living and working for eight years in New York City at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), one of the largest and most influential architecture, interior design, engineering and urban planning firms in the world. Then, the economic crisis hit.

We were understaffed and overworked. Inan was in town, and we were trying to figure out what we were going to do. So, we decided to open our own firm. Then the brains came after, said Carbajo smiling and pointing at the 27-year-old Gven.

Already, theyve received more than 30 awards (ten where they have placed 1st) for dozens of their designs, from the most prestigious design competitions around the world, including the most recent 1st place award in the International Wearable Technology Competition for their innovative and cutting-edge sponge suit design.

Gven knew of a team of Turkish engineers at the University of California in Riverside who were working on a special sponge material that was water-resistant but yet was able to absorb contaminants at the nano level.

The idea to create this technology came after the oil spills of BP. The contamination trickled down into beaches, and were not even realizing that were still swimming in these oil-like contaminants, said Gven. So the research started at U of C Riverside about four years ago, and they recently got to the point where it could be incorporated into some products as this competition for wearable technology came up.

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Their design for this sponge suit won 1st place in the International Wearable Technology Competition

Its a super hydrophobic material that absorbs any oil-based contaminant but at a level that our body could not. So the swimsuit absorbs, but the pollutants do not touch your body.”

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Pinar Gven holds a vial of the carbon-based material used to manufacture the sponge materials for their wearable suit design

The sponge is made from a carbon-based material that is biodegradable and scalable and inexpensive to manufacture, said Gven. It can be used from 4-20 times, depending upon how polluted the water’s pollution level. And then you have to get a refill of the sponge material.

The goal is to have recycling centers because it does release the contaminants when heated at high temperatures. And since its very affordable to manufacture, it wouldnt be an expensive exchange.

The idea was to help clean the seas as you swim, said Gven. It wont make much difference on an individual level. But if were all using it, sure. Its something to consider.

Already theyre working on other applications, including surfboards, swim caps and other water gear.

We are in a crowd-sourcing economy. So its the same mindsetcrowd cleaning, said Eray. We are just happy to just create the dialogue and start the discussion.”

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Guggenheim Helsinki Competition Entry Design by Eray Carbajo

The team also won an Aesthetic Merit Award for a prototype of a 200-sq. ft tiny homes homeless community in North Carolina. All of their projects vary in size, scale and topic.

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Eray Carbajo won an Aesthetic Merit Award for this design of a 200-sq. ft tiny homes community in North Carolina

Were competition junkies, said Gven. Its a lot of research, a lot of time and a lot of 24-hour days. But its an amazing learning curve that makes us work together in a very fast and efficient pace with an amazing outcome. We love doing competitions. We like to try different types, and we dont get comfortable in a certain typology.

Currently, the team is working on cutting-edge boutique hotel design that will be erected in Gowanus, Brooklyn.

I think the main thing is that we are constant researchers in what we are doing. We are learning from all the past architects and were always researching for new innovationwhether that is little increase or a huge transformation, said Eray.

And being in the Navy Yard is who we are, where we want to be. Its not a coincidence. We are doers, he said. We want to be surrounded by manufacturers, because that smartness– from carpenters, to welders– we want to bring it into our equation of efficiency and design and make a better product.

To us, every project is another design problem that needs to be solved.

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  1. What a pleasure to have such creative and innovative people here in Brooklyn! I always wondered what the hell was going on inside that navy yard!

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