Brooklyn Botanic's New 'Do

written by:
April 5, 2012

Last week, as spring's balmy temperatures took a temporary dip into glacier territory, the two founding partners of architecture and urbanism firm Weiss/Manfredi led a hard hat tour of their new visitors center at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden (opening in a mere six weeks!). Luckily, magnolias and cherry trees were already in bloom and a bright sun illuminated the mostly-transparent structure. The deceptively modest structure is nestled into a hill on the northeast corner of the site, so 50 percent of its envelope benefits from thermal efficiency. And like any ground-up civil structure worth its salt, it's sustainable, with a geoexchange system comprised of 28 heating and cooling wells, radiant floor heating, and landscaping made of postconsumer recycled building materials. And did we mention it's a looker? Click through for a preview.

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  Brooklyn Botanic Gardens Visitor Center, Location: Brooklyn NY, Architect: Weiss Manfredi Architects  Courtesy of: © Albert Vecerka/Esto
    Brooklyn Botanic Gardens Visitor Center, Location: Brooklyn NY, Architect: Weiss Manfredi Architects

    Courtesy of: © Albert Vecerka/Esto

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  Brooklyn has the lowest amount of green space per capita in the United States, after Las Vegas. People visiting the gardens through the main entrance off Washington Avenue will pass a nursery/retail boutique (at right) on their way to the welcome to center (left).  Courtesy of: © Albert Vecerka/Esto
    Brooklyn has the lowest amount of green space per capita in the United States, after Las Vegas. People visiting the gardens through the main entrance off Washington Avenue will pass a nursery/retail boutique (at right) on their way to the welcome to center (left).

    Courtesy of: © Albert Vecerka/Esto

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  This aerial shot of the Brooklyn Botanical Garden shows the masterplan for its site, with the visitors' center at top, just below the Neoclassical Brooklyn Museum. Courtesy of Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates.  Courtesy of: Alex S. MacLean
    This aerial shot of the Brooklyn Botanical Garden shows the masterplan for its site, with the visitors' center at top, just below the Neoclassical Brooklyn Museum. Courtesy of Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates.

    Courtesy of: Alex S. MacLean

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  The front gates of the new visitors center with gates that pivot on a central axis, all designed by Weiss/Manfredi. The welcome area is positioned as an "urban gesture" right off Washington Avenue, according to co-founder Michael Manfredi, and you get a sense of "cinematic unfolding" from the street to the garden.  Courtesy of: Kelsey Keith
    The front gates of the new visitors center with gates that pivot on a central axis, all designed by Weiss/Manfredi. The welcome area is positioned as an "urban gesture" right off Washington Avenue, according to co-founder Michael Manfredi, and you get a sense of "cinematic unfolding" from the street to the garden.

    Courtesy of: Kelsey Keith

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  Manfredi also speaks to the structure's undulating mass, partially nestled into an existing hill in the northeast corner of the site. The "topographical" quality of the nearly two-block-long, curving steel frame structure "evokes the garden's winding pathways."  Courtesy of: © Albert Vecerka/Esto
    Manfredi also speaks to the structure's undulating mass, partially nestled into an existing hill in the northeast corner of the site. The "topographical" quality of the nearly two-block-long, curving steel frame structure "evokes the garden's winding pathways."

    Courtesy of: © Albert Vecerka/Esto

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  Here you can see the beginning stages of a green roof, which will be planted with 40,000 species of plants that change according to the season.  Courtesy of: Kelsey Keith
    Here you can see the beginning stages of a green roof, which will be planted with 40,000 species of plants that change according to the season.

    Courtesy of: Kelsey Keith

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  The entire building is a study in transparency. The south facade looks out over the Japanese hill-and-pond garden, shown here, which is also visible from the back side through the fritted glass walls.  Courtesy of: Kelsey Keith
    The entire building is a study in transparency. The south facade looks out over the Japanese hill-and-pond garden, shown here, which is also visible from the back side through the fritted glass walls.

    Courtesy of: Kelsey Keith

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  Weiss/Manfredi co-founder Marion Weiss, center, with Brooklyn Botanic Garden president Scot Medbury at left. Partner Michael Manfredi and project manager Armando Petruccelli not pictured.  Courtesy of: Kelsey Keith
    Weiss/Manfredi co-founder Marion Weiss, center, with Brooklyn Botanic Garden president Scot Medbury at left. Partner Michael Manfredi and project manager Armando Petruccelli not pictured.

    Courtesy of: Kelsey Keith

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  The center's double-height event space is lined in gingko wood harvested from felled trees on the BBG property. Floors of polished concrete are capped with a ceiling (a stylized leaf) that hides a complicated array of beam configurations. The gingko allée on the hill behind the building peeps above the gingko paneling on the interior.  Courtesy of: Kelsey Keith
    The center's double-height event space is lined in gingko wood harvested from felled trees on the BBG property. Floors of polished concrete are capped with a ceiling (a stylized leaf) that hides a complicated array of beam configurations. The gingko allée on the hill behind the building peeps above the gingko paneling on the interior.

    Courtesy of: Kelsey Keith

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  In addition to the green roof's flora, 60,000 other species will be planted around the building, including water-loving native shrubs and grasses for the soon-to-be rain garden.  Courtesy of: Kelsey Keith
    In addition to the green roof's flora, 60,000 other species will be planted around the building, including water-loving native shrubs and grasses for the soon-to-be rain garden.

    Courtesy of: Kelsey Keith

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  Weiss/Manfredi plotted out the green bathroom tiles according to pixelated photos of the botanic gardens.  Courtesy of: Kelsey Keith
    Weiss/Manfredi plotted out the green bathroom tiles according to pixelated photos of the botanic gardens.

    Courtesy of: Kelsey Keith

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