Calling it "the threshold to the garden’s growing future," Michael Mayor Bloomberg cut the ribbon on the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s new visitor center Wednesday morning, opening it to the public after four years of construction.
The 20,000-square-foot glass, steel and concrete building with a living roof, and two-walled, leaf-shaped atrium was built through a combination of private donations and public funding including $28 million from the City of New York.
“This is the kind of investment in our cultural institutions and organizations that have brought tens of millions of visitors to our city each year and keeps New York the number one tourist destination in the United States,” Bloomberg said before cutting garland made of mountain laurel and other native plants.
Architects Michael Manfredi and Marion Weiss designed the center to build upon the visitor’s sense of discovery offered by the garden’s winding paths and secluded enclaves.
“When I first came to the garden … it felt infinite and intimate ate the same time,” Weiss said . “We wanted to build on that have the building unfold cinematically.
Garden president Scot Medbury said the center “is both an extension and elevation of the garden’s topography, softening the transition from the gray to the green and underscoring the garden’s long-standing commitment to connecting the urban and natural words in new and forward-thinking ways.
From Washington Street, visitors arrive at a public plaza that includes a small rain garden. They then face two glass buildings, a gift-shop and a long, thin, curving room that holds interpretive exhibits—such as a plant identification game—and a small café. Off of that is the leaf-shaped, double height event space, which, Weiss said, is the only two-walled room she knows of in the world.
That room opens out to a terrace where visitors can follow steps up to the living roof and Gingko Pavilion or paths to the Cherry Esplanade or Japanese Garden.
The buildings are all curved lines that either follow the landscape or the vegetation. The line of the gift shop, for example, follows the canopy of a 60-year-old green-blossomed cherry tree.
There’s a saying a tree grows in Brooklyn. Now it’s a building that grows in a garden—it’s hard to tell where the garden starts and the building begins,” said Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz at the ribbon-cutting.
The project was created to accommodate th influx of visitors during such events as the , which draws up to 37,000 visitors in a single day. Last month alone the garden had 200,000 visitors, said Frederick Bland, chairman of the garden’s board of trustees.
It is the first project of the garden’s “Campaign for the Next Century.” So far the garden has raised $80 million for a series of improvements that also will include new entrances on Eastern Parkway and Flatbush Avenue, expanded native flora gardens and a massive water conservation project.