Replacing a lone turnstile and guard’s hut behind the Brooklyn Museum with a series of glass-wrapped, green-capped pavilions and a plaza, the new Brooklyn Botanic Garden (BBG) Visitor Center by New York–based Weiss/Manfredi is a sight for sore eyes. Nestled within a rich context and history—the nearby Prospect Park was designed by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted in the late 19th century and the Gardens by his two sons in the early 20th—the Center’s most impressive feature, its steel-frame design, is also its most vital. The custom-made structure forms a curving vertebrae that is formally elegant and light on the ground, yet structurally robust.
“We wanted it to be an inhabitable topography,” said Manfredi. Indeed, the center’s serpentine form responds to the site’s existing undulations and is shaped to accommodate the grade differential and maximize sunlight and views to the gardens, as well as reap the geothermal benefits of a berm. To successfully do this the exposed 10x6 columns have been welded to varying roof beam depths, ranging from 10x6 to 18x6 to form frames that are organized in a curvilinear, 12-foot on-center grid in an east-west configuration.