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Brooklyn Botanic Garden Visitor Center:Magical Glass Entrance,a Living Roof Atop

Multi Million Dollar Addition Opens May 16, 2012

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In May 2012, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden opens a new 20,000-square-foot Visitor Center with an award-winning design by New York firm Weiss/Manfredi, reorienting the main entrance of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden from Eastern Parkway to the formerly modest side entrance on Washington Avenue.

The Botanic Garden, known for understatement, has called this new development a key element in “the most significant renewal effort at the Garden since its founding over a century ago.”

A Leaf Shaped Living Roof Over a Vast, Modern Visitors Center Transforms BBGs Entrance

And, it promises to be spectacular.

Combining architecture with environmentally “green” elements such as a living roof, plus of course, elegant landscape design, the Visitors Center will have a lot of features: a rotating display of exhibits; a special room for tour groups; a “leaf-shaped event space” that, the architects say, promises to be “dramatic,” and an even bigger and better garden store.

According to the Garden, the "leaf-shaped living roof hosts over 40,000 plants — grasses, spring bulbs, and perennial wildflowers."

Like the Brooklyn Museum next door, which boasts an elegant glass addition to its entrance-way, the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens will invite visitors into its varied garden terrain via a curved glass trellis.

Located in the Botanic Garden’s northeast corner, the new structure will have an organic feel. It will be “composed of two linked forms that seem to appear, disappear, and change shape as the visitor moves through,” according to a press release.

By the time the Visitor Center opens on May 16, 2012, nearly 60,000 plants will have been installed around the building, including cherry, magnolia, and tupelo trees; viburnums; native roses; and three rain gardens full of water-loving plants.

As Brooklyn’s premiere environmental institution, it's fitting that the Garden's 10,000-square-foot living roof was designed with environmental concerns in mind, and that its vegetation will change with the seasons. (See a time-lapse video on BBG’s website, illustrating how the living roof is recreated and transformed as the weather changes.)

“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.

Designed by the New York firm Weiss/Manfredi, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden Visitors Center project was recognized by the New York City Public Design Commission with a 2008 Award for Excellence in Design.

The existing main entrance on Eastern Parkway, a major thoroughfare, will remain open to the public. However, the new Visitors Center, on Washington Street, a side street, will dramatically re-orient the experience of entering the Botanic Garden for many visitors.

Unseen Environmental Features

The average visitor might not be aware of all the environmental intelligence involved in the design of the new Visitors Center. Its north side is “built into a preexisting berm, which increases thermal efficiency,” said a press release. “Its clerestory glazing—along with the fritted glass on the south walls—minimizes heat gain and maximizes natural illumination. A geoexchange system heats and cools the interior spaces, and a series of rain gardens collect and filter runoff to improve storm-water management.”

Counterbalancing the 21st-century technology, the Visitor Center also gives a nod to the early 20th-century elegance of the Botanic Gardens other structures. The Washington Avenue side of the building is topped with a pleated copper roof that is stylistically in keeping with the 1917 McKim, Mead & White landmarked Botanic Garden Administration Building; the copper will naturally weather to green.

More Improvements Planned at Brooklyn Botanic Garden

And, the Visitors Center is not all that’s new at the Botanic Garden. In the future, improvements will be made in the
  • Herb Garden,
  • a Woodland Garden,
  • a new Water Garden,
  • a water conservation project, and
  • a new children’s Discovery Garden designed by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates.

Brooklyn Botanic Garden Campaign Raises $80 Million

Funding for the new Visitor Center was provided by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, New York City Council, the Brooklyn Borough President’s office, and The Lillian Goldman Charitable Trust and The Amy P. Goldman Foundation.

Additional support was provided by U.S Representative Yvette D. Clarke and the federal Department of Energy, N.Y. State Senator Velmanette Montgomery and the State of New York Economic Development Assistance Program, The Achelis and Bodman Foundations, Booth Ferris Foundation, Con Edison, Helen V. Froehlich Foundation, Brooklyn Community Foundation, Kresge Foundation Green Building Initiative, National Grid, New York State Council on the Arts, and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

To date, the campaign has raised nearly $80 million.

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