BROOKLYN — The Brooklyn Botanic Garden (BBG) announces that on May 16, 2012, it will open its new Visitor Center.
Designed by the innovative New York-based firm Weiss/Manfredi, the project was recognized by the New York City Public Design Commission with a 2008 Award for Excellence in Design.
The Visitor Center is a synthesis of architecture and landscape design, replacing a modest gate on Washington Avenue with an enticing entry into the 52-acre garden. It houses interpretive exhibits and a room for orienting tour groups; a dramatic, leaf-shaped event space; an expanded store offering garden-related products and plants and other visitor amenities.
Conceived as an extension of the garden’s landscape, the glass building is embedded in an existing hillside at the garden’s northeast corner. Composed of two linked forms that seem to appear, disappear, and change shape as the visitor moves through and around them, the building offers a new sequence of views into and through the garden.
In addition, the Visitor Center incorporates numerous environmentally sustainable features — most notably a 10,000-square-foot living roof — that are aimed toward earning LEED Gold certification.
“The Visitor Center is both an extension and elevation of the Garden’s topography, softening the transition from city to garden-and allowing us a significant new way to model how plants can fit into urban environments,” said Scot Medbury, president of Brooklyn Botanic Garden. “It enhances BBG’s ability to welcome a growing audience and continues our longstanding commitment to fostering connections with our neighboring communities.”
In response to increased attendance at the garden, ongoing revitalization in Brooklyn, and growing interest in urban horticulture and sustainability, BBG is also in the midst of creating a suite of new and enhanced gardens, facilities, and programs. Other notable projects include a new Herb Garden, a Woodland Garden and an expanded Native Flora Garden.
The 20,000-square-foot Visitor Center was conceived as a new threshold between the city and Brooklyn Botanic Garden. The Visitor Center invites visitors from Washington Avenue into the garden via a curved glass trellis before opening into major garden features like the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden and Cherry Esplanade.
The curved glass walls of the Visitor Center offer veiled views into the garden, their fritted glass filtering light and deterring bird strikes. A geoexchange system heats and cools the interior spaces, and a series of rain gardens collect and filter runoff to improve storm-water management.
The leaf-shaped living roof hosts more than 40,000 plants — grasses, spring bulbs, and perennial wildflowers — adding a new experimental landscape to the garden’s collection.