The new Visitor Center at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens officially opened its doors earlier this month and was inaugurated with a ribbon cutting ceremony with Mayor Bloomberg. Designed by the New York based architectural firm Weiss/Manfredi, the center merges modern architecture with landscape design that blends together Brooklyn’s urban and garden environments.
“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 the Gardens.
The impressive 10,000 square foot (929 square meter) garden roof is the center’s main attraction, and is the new home to over 40,000 plant types including bulbs, grasses and wildflower. But it doesn’t end there. A estimated 60,000 additional plants surround the building, too. This explosion of plant life combines with the landscape design to realize the architect’s vision of an urban oasis and a visitor center that is brimming with life. “We envisioned the Visitor Center as a living interface that creates an invitation from the city into the Garden - a demonstration of the compelling reciprocity between architecture and landscape." said architects Marion Weiss and Michael Manfredi.
The 20,000 square foot (1858 square meter) Visitor Center almost camouflages itself into the surrounding landscape, having being built into an existing hill. Inside the building, dramatic floor-to-ceiling curved glass walls open out into the surrounding parkland and themed gardens. Winding walkways guide visitors through the center while offering views of the external landscape and the sense of actually meandering through the gardens. The fritted glass walls allow natural light to filter through the building, while added vertical lines hopes to prevent birds from flying into the glass panels.
In addition to the expansive living roof landscape, the Visitor Center has incorporated a number of sustainable initiatives into its design, including a geothermal heating and cooling system. By building into a berm at the north end, the structure taps into the a geothermal energy source that increases the building’s thermal efficiency. This “geoexchange system” is primarily used to heat and cool the building’s interior. Furthermore a collection of gray water gardens surround the building which have been specifically designed to collect and filter runoff, aiding the center’s storm-water management system.
The Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Visitor Center includes an orientation room, information lobby, gift shop, exhibition gallery, cafe, and an elliptical events space.