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Jun 1, 2012
Two years after its centennial birthday, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden (BBG) has opened its new 22,000-square-foot visitor center designed by architects Weiss/Manfredi. The low, curving building replaces a modest gate as the main entrance to the 52-acre garden, renowned for its cherry blossom festival, the nation's first Japanese garden, and its impressive rose garden. It may be one-fifth the size of the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx, but BBG provides a splendid experience, now aided by the Visitor Center's interpretive exhibits, garden shop, and leaf-shaped event space.
What is most striking about the building is the way it bridges city and garden, architecture and landscape. A concrete wall capped by a crinkled, copper roof greets visitors and passersby on the street. The building gradually transforms itself as one moves into the garden, merging with the multi-tiered landscape. Architects Marion Weiss and Michael Manfredi were influenced by the existing paths that criss-crossed the site. They maintained these curving paths and let the building's form follow them, allowing movement across the garden and providing unexpected views into the exhibit and event spaces.
Thankfully the merging of architecture and landscape is not just window dressing. It is part of an ecological mindset that sees landscape as part of natural processes, and building as something that should improve the environment (geothermal wells, the living roof, and other sustainable features aid in this regard). As an architectural precedent in a century increasingly focused on sustainability, the BBG Visitor Center is Character Approved.
[Image: Daytime view from Ginkgo Allée by Albert Vecerka / Esto. Courtesy Brooklyn Botanic Garden]