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Inside the Brooklyn Botanic Garden's New Visitor Center

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The city's architecture critics have been weighing in on the Brooklyn Botanic Garden's new 20,000-square-foot visitor center, a modern, state-of-the-art building that blends the built and natural environments, which opens to the public on Wednesday, May 16. Justin Davidson of New York praised the building, designed by husband and wife architecture team Marion Weiss and Michael Manfredi, as a model to be replicated, while Philip Nobel of the Times was a little more reserved in his critique, saying that visitors must now "contend with architecture at the garden's threshold" (stay tuned for Curbed's archicritics' review). While the official opening isn't for another week, we swung by the press preview this morning. Here now are 17 rainy pictures of the new center, which Manfredi said is hard to photograph, so take these photos with a grain of salt and go see the center for yourself?admission will be free on June 2!

Located at the BBG's parking lot and entrance on Washington Avenue, the visitor center is not actually where the garden had originally proposed it to be, which was at the top of the famous cherry esplanade. Weiss/Manfredi suggested moving the center closer to the road to allow for a better connection to the neighborhood. The garden welcomes as many as 37,000 visitors on a weekend day, and the new center has a plaza area that can accomodate the crowds waiting to enter. Before, plant lovers would be lined up around the block. A rain garden (which is rather sad-looking at the moment, but BBG president Scot Medbury assured us that it will grow in) greets visitors at the front of the plaza.

Weiss said that through the design they "wanted to pay homage to the sense of discovery" one feels in the garden, and as such, the building was constructed around the living landscape, resulting in few, if any straight angles. The curvy new center nestles into an existing hillside, allowing the 10,000-square-foot green roof to be adjacent to a walkway and seating area above the building.

Inside, the new center offers an interactive learning gallery, a garden shop, and a leaf-shaped 2,500-square-foot event space that looks out onto the gardens. The double-height windows have fritted glass helps block sunlight and deter bird collisions, and the wooden acoustics paneling is made from gingko trees that were harvested on the building site. The building is seeking LEED Gold certification, and besides the living roof, one of the main sustainable features is a 28-well geoexchange system that heats and cools the building using the earth's consistent temperature. Most systems like this are hidden, but BBG highlights the well caps with metal discs along a walkway.

· Brooklyn Botanic Garden Visitor Center [BBG.org]
· Brooklyn Botanic Garden [Curbed]
· At Garden's Visitor Center, a Welcome Transparency [NYT]
· When the House is the Yard [NYM]

Brooklyn Botanic Garden

990 Washington Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11225 (718) 623-7200 Visit Website