BBG Wins Mayor’s Award for Excellence in Design for New Flatbush Avenue Entrance and Café

BBG Wins Mayor’s Award for Excellence in Design for New Flatbush Avenue Entrance and Café
A rendering of BBG’s Flatbush Avenue Entrance, one of the winning designs. (courtesy Architecture Research Office)

Release Date: July 25, 2012

BROOKLYN, NY—The Public Design Commission of the City of New York (formerly the Art Commission) awarded Brooklyn Botanic Garden (BBG), Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Architecture Research Office, the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, and the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation its 2012 Award for Excellence in Design, conferred on July 24 at a ceremony at the Spruce Street School. The award recognizes the innovative redesign of two important visitor landmarks at the Garden: the Flatbush Avenue Entrance and the Terrace Café.

Designed by New York–based landscape architecture firm Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA), along with Architecture Research Office (ARO), the Flatbush Avenue Entrance and Terrace Café projects will join BBG’s newly opened Visitor Center in significantly enhancing the visitor experience at the Garden, integrating built structures into BBG’s iconic landscape in a sensitive and environmentally conscious manner.

Both the Terrace Café and the Flatbush Avenue Entrance are components of Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Campaign for the Next Century, the most significant Garden renewal effort since the BBG’s founding more than a century ago. The Flatbush Entrance and Café designs were approved by the Design Commission in December 2011, and are expected to break ground in early 2013.

Flatbush Avenue Entrance
The southernmost of BBG’s three public entrances, located at the intersection of Flatbush Avenue and Empire Boulevard, the Flatbush Avenue Entrance welcomes approximately one-third of the Garden’s 725,000 annual visitors. As part of the award-winning design, its 1930 McKim, Mead & White brick archway will be renovated and a new entry pavilion with ticketing and visitor comfort stations constructed. Together, these new entrance elements will provide improved visitor services while creating a more memorable garden moment upon entry. The site will be enhanced by a new garden featuring early-spring flowering varieties, providing sound attenuation of the adjacent thoroughfares and offering a new entrance garden equal to the colorful horticultural displays at BBG’s other two major entrances. It will significantly strengthen the Garden’s “front door” presence for Flatbush Avenue and the communities to the south of the Garden.

A principal concern of the new entry pavilion is its environmental footprint, which will be minimized through low-flow water fixtures, clerestory windows and vision glazing to maximize natural light, and low-mercury artificial light sources. Stormwater collected from the entry building will be directed into a new garden-wide water catchment system. The building will be constructed of hand-crafted bricks and feature a dynamic zinc-sculpted roof.

Terrace Café Kiosk
A new exterior café kiosk will function as a more compact and efficiently laid-out version of the current Terrace Café, situated in the same Steinhardt Conservatory courtyard, but shifted slightly to abut one of its pavilions and better blend into the existing landscape. The newly opened courtyard area will allow for the construction and viewing of a new experimental plants garden, which will provide year-round interest to those visiting the café, entering the Conservatory, or simply strolling along the eastern perimeter of the Garden.

The steel structure of the new kiosk is designed to achieve a thin profile and create an impression of lightness. The kiosk also features a stainless steel mesh screen that can be pulled around the entirety of the structure to close it off while still conveying a sense of transparency.

Like the new entry pavilion, the kiosk will utilize construction materials that contain a great degree of recycled content, and its roof finish will feature high solar reflectivity to reduce cooling loads.

“We are thrilled to have two of the Garden’s upcoming Campaign projects among the distinguished winners of this award,” said Scot Medbury, president of Brooklyn Botanic Garden. “Our architect and landscape architect partners deserve recognition for their fine work in collaborating on designs that in form and function look to BBG’s exciting future while respecting its venerable past. The Flatbush Avenue Entrance and Café Kiosk epitomize the Garden’s priorities in its second century—environmental consciousness, superb visitor services, and sensitive and sustainable design—which will undoubtedly help the Garden become even more important to its surrounding communities and the hundreds of thousands of visitors who travel to visit each year.”

Michael Van Valkenburgh, president and CEO of MVVA, said, “Every year, over 150,000 school children visit BBG, many entering via Flatbush Avenue. The new entry will bring the magic of the Garden out to greet them. We are incredibly honored to have our work chosen for this award.”

“The two new buildings are designed completely in service to the Garden,” said Stephen Cassell, principal of Architecture Research Office. “Their purpose is to enhance the enjoyment and appreciation of the Garden’s amazing landscapes. While the entrance building is composed of hand-crafted bricks and the café kiosk is constructed from a lightweight stainless steel mesh, both structures are inspired by their surroundings: the materiality and proportions of the 1930 brick and limestone archway and the modern steel and glass of the Steinhardt Conservatory.” Cassell added, “As a lifelong Brooklynite, it’s a great honor for me to participate in the continued reinvention of Brooklyn Botanic Garden.”

BBG’s Campaign for the Next Century has received generous support from many individuals, foundations, government institutions, and corporations. The Garden specially recognizes Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, the New York City Council, and U.S. Representative Yvette C. Clarke and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for direct support of the new Flatbush Entrance and Café Kiosk projects.

Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates
Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA) is a landscape architecture firm that creates environmentally sustainable and experientially rich places across a wide range of landscape scales, from city to campus to garden.

With offices in Brooklyn, New York and Cambridge, Massachusetts, MVVA works closely with urban planners, architects, engineers, and ecologists. The firm’s collaborative approach and integrated design methodology ensures that the experience of MVVA’s built landscapes grows from, and is supported by, integrated sustainability, outstanding environmental performance, material resilience, technical innovation, and material expression.

The firm’s projects have received numerous honors including awards from the American Society of Landscape Architects, the U.S. National Park Service, and the Municipal Arts Society of New York City. MVVA has also won multiple high-profile design competitions including the Lower Don Lands project in Toronto, and The City + The Arch + The River competition for St. Louis and East St. Louis.

Architecture Research Office
Architecture Research Office (ARO) is the New York City firm led by Stephen Cassell, Adam Yarinsky and Kim Yao. Founded in 1993, ARO has a reputation for earnest exploration and fearless engagement that yields architecture that is original, innovative and imaginative. The firm’s process of investigation, analysis, and testing makes ARO as much a laboratory as a design practice. The firm recently received the nation’s highest honors for the profession: the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award for Architecture and the American Academy of Arts and Letters’ Academy Award for Architecture. From a 1,000-square-foot, low-income, sustainable housing prototype to elegant private homes to a proposal to reinvent the role of ecology and infrastructure in New York City, ARO’s work is surprisingly sensuous, intellectually rigorous, and socially engaging. ARO works with leading universities, cultural institutions, global corporations, government agencies, and private residential clients.

Public Design Commission of the City of New York
Established in 1898 as the Art Commission, New York City’s design review agency was renamed the Design Commission in July 2008 to better reflect its mission. The Design Commission reviews permanent works of art, architecture, and landscape architecture proposed on or over City-owned property. Since 1982, the Design Commission has recognized outstanding public projects with its Annual Awards for Excellence in Design. The winning projects are selected by the Commission from the hundreds of submissions reviewed each year and exemplify the highest design standards. Past winners of the Excellence in Design Awards include the Rose Center for Earth and Science, a project by Polshek Partnership Architects at the American Museum of Natural History, and the Brooklyn Children’s Museum Expansion, a project by Rafael Viñoly Architects.

Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Founded in 1910, Brooklyn Botanic Garden is an independent nonprofit institution committed to education, research, and the display of horticulture. Situated on 52 acres in the heart of Brooklyn, the Garden is home to over 12,000 kinds of plants and hosts more than 725,000 visitors annually. Learn more at

Brooklyn Botanic Garden is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The Garden is closed on Mondays except public holidays. Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for senior citizens (65 and older) and students with ID. Children under 12, all school groups, and Garden members are admitted free at all times. For directions, please visit

Learn what’s happening at Brooklyn Botanic Garden at, read the Garden’s blog at, and see photos of current highlights at
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