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2014 MCHAP

Brooklyn Botanic Garden Visitor Center


Brooklyn, NY, USA

May 2012




Weidlinger Associates Consulting Engineers (Structural and Civil Engineering Consultant) Jaros, Baum & Bolles Consulting Engineers (MEPFP/IT Engineering Consultant) Langan Engineering and Environmental Services (Geothermal/Geotechnical Engineering Consultant) HM White Site Architects (Landscape Architect) Brandston Partnership Inc. (Lighting Design Consultant) Viridian Energy & Environmental, LLC (LEED/Environmental Consultant) Jeanne Giordano Ltd. (Retail Consultant) Cerami & Associates, Inc. (AV/Acoustics/Security Consultant) TM Technology Partners (Security Consultant) Ricca Newmark Design (Food Service Consultant) R.A. Heintges & Associates (Curtain Wall Consultant) Code Consultants, Inc. (Code & Life Safety Consultants) Sam Schwartz LLC (Traffic Consultants) The LiRo Group (Construction Manager) E.W. Howell (General Contractor)


Brooklyn Botanic Garden


Albert Vecerka


Sited at Washington Avenue and within the berm that separates the Brooklyn Museum parking lot from the Botanic Garden, the Visitor Center provides clear orientation and access to the major garden precincts such as the Japanese Garden and the Cherry Esplanade. The Center includes an exhibition gallery, information lobby, orientation room, gift shop, café, and an events space. Like the gardens themselves, the building is experienced cinematically and is never seen in its entirety. The serpentine form of the Visitor Center is generated by the garden’s existing pathways. The primary entry to the building from Washington Avenue is visible from the street; a secondary route from the top of the berm slides through the visitor center, frames views of the Japanese Garden, and descends to the main level of the Garden. The curved glass walls of the center’s gallery are mediating surfaces between the building and the landscape. The fritted surfaces of the glass filter light and provide veiled views into the Garden. By contrast, the north side of the center is inscribed into a berm. The steel-framed superstructure adjusts to the curved plan and gives shape to the undulating roof canopy. The building utilizes earth mass and spectrally selective fritted glass to achieve a high-performing building envelope, minimizing heat gain and maximizing natural illumination. A geothermal heat-exchange system is used to heat and cool the interior spaces. Additional sustainable strategies include a green roof, storm water management, and rainwater collection that irrigate a series of landscaped terraces.


A botanic garden is an unusual kind of museum, a fragile collection constantly in flux. As a constructed “natural” environment, it is dependent on manmade infrastructures to thrive. New York City’s Brooklyn Botanic Garden contains a wide variety of landscapes organized into discrete settings such as the Japanese Garden, the Cherry Esplanade, the Osborne Garden, the Overlook, and the Cranford Rose Garden. The Botanic Garden exists as an oasis in the city, visually separated from the neighborhood by elevated berms and trees. A chameleon-like structure, the visitor center transitions from an architectural presence at the street into a structured landscape in the botanic garden. To provoke curiosity and interest in its world-class collection, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden Visitor Center provides a legible point of arrival and orientation, then the chameleon-like structure transitions from an architectural presence at the street into a structured landscape in the botanic garden. This new threshold acts as an interface between garden and city, culture and cultivation. The Visitor Center redefines the physical and philosophical relationship between visitor and garden, introducing new connections between landscape and structure, exhibition and movement.


The Center promotes the education and outreach central to the mission of the Botanic Garden. Spaces include a linear exhibition gallery, information lobby, group orientation room, gift shop, café, and a double-height events space. The new Visitor Center marks an important chapter in the history of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, a moment when the Garden is reaching out to make an impact on the city around it. Like the garden, the Visitor Center will change in each season – with elements like the living roof, it will have four distinct identities throughout the seasons, with varying heights and colors based on the seasonal life of the plantings. We hope that this building makes the changing nature of the Garden visible and evident to both new and returning visitors. The Garden has become a pioneer institution, pushing the limits of what it means to be a protected garden in an urban environment. Thus, our new Visitor Center is designed to define a new threshold between the city and the fifty-two-acre garden landscape while embracing and supporting the garden’s rich educational mission. Education and exhibitions about the garden’s unique collections are integrated throughout the building and site. Through site specific displays that explain the garden’s wide variety of plant species and garden precincts, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden Visitor Center strives to enhance the knowledge of the larger global botanic garden community, and engages the residents of the local Prospect Heights neighborhood with new programs for kids, school groups, and families.

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