BBG’s Visitor Center Designed By WEISS/MANFREDI Wins 2014 AIA Institute Honor Award for Architecture

Release Date: January 14, 2014

Brooklyn, NY—Brooklyn Botanic Garden (BBG) is pleased to announce that its Visitor Center, designed by New York–based multidisciplinary design practice WEISS/MANFREDI, has won the 2014 American Institute of Architects’ (AIA) Institute Honor Award for Architecture. The Institute Honor Awards recognize achievements for a broad range of architectural activity to elevate the general quality of architecture practice, establish a standard of excellence against which all architects can measure performance, and inform the public of the breadth and value of architecture practice. BBG’s Visitor Center opened in May 2012 and has also recently earned LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certification by the U.S. Green Building Council.

Said Michael Manfredi and Marion Weiss, design partners at WEISS/MANFREDI: "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. Just as the garden inspires wandering, we designed the center so that it is never seen in its entirety but is experienced cinematically as an unfolding place of discovery."

“We were delighted to learn that BBG’s Visitor Center was honored by the American Institute of Architects with this prestigious national award,“ said Scot Medbury, president of Brooklyn Botanic Garden. “We knew, even in the early design stages with WEISS/MANFREDI, that this project would be a transformative architectural presence for the Garden and the surrounding neighborhood. We are proud to now have the Visitor Center recognized with such an important distinction.”

The 20,000-square-foot Visitor Center was designed as a key part of BBG’s major renewal efforts, launched on the occasion of the Garden’s centennial. It is a dynamic synthesis of architecture and landscape design, conceived as a threshold between the city and Brooklyn Botanic Garden. It transitions from a glass-walled architectural presence on Washington Avenue to a sinuous structure with a living roof that becomes a seamless extension of BBG’s 52-acre landscape. The leaf-shaped living roof hosts over 40,000 plants—grasses, spring bulbs, and perennial wildflowers—adding a new experimental landscape to the Garden’s collection.

The curved glass walls of the Visitor Center offer veiled views into the Garden, their fritted glass filtering light and deterring bird strikes. In contrast to the southern face of the building, the north side is built into a preexisting berm, which increases thermal efficiency. Its clerestory glazing—along with the fritted glass on the south walls—minimizes heat gain and maximizes natural illumination. A geoexchange system heats and cools the interior spaces, and a series of rain gardens collect and filter runoff to improve storm-water management.

The 2014 Institute Honor Awards for Architecture jury included Scott Wolf, FAIA (Chair), the Miller Hull Partnership LLP, Seattle; Natalye Appel, FAIA, Natalye Appel + Associates Architects, Houston; Mary Brush, AIA, Brush Architects, LLC, Chicago; Joy Coleman, AIA, Treanor Architects, Kansas City, Missouri; Robert M. Hon, AIAS Student Representative, Savannah; Brenda A. Levin, FAIA, Levin & Associates Architects, Los Angeles; Michael J. Mills, FAIA, Mills + Schnoering Architects, LLC, Princeton, New Jersey; G. Martin Moeller, Assoc. AIA, National Building Museum, Washington, DC; and Ed Soltero, AIA, Office of the University Architect–Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona. According to jury members, “The Brooklyn Botanic Garden Visitor Center is quite wonderful—simple and exquisite.…It is a ribbon of building, integrating roof, pedestrian experience, and city context.”

Other recent awards and recognitions the Visitor Center has received include the distinguished Chicago Athenaeum International Architecture Award (2013), Chicago Athenaeum American Architecture Award (2013), the American Institute of Architects New York State (AIANYS) Design Award (2013), and the American Society of Landscape Architects National Honor Award (2013). Other recent awards and recognitions include the following: World Architecture Festival, Display Category Finalist (2013); the Municipal Art Society MASterworks Award: Best New Urban Amenity (2013); Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce Building Brooklyn Awards’ National Grid Award for Energy Efficiency (2013); New York American Society of Landscape Architects, Landscape and Living Roof (2013); Building of the Year, Second Place (2013); Architect Magazine Annual Design Review, Bond Category Winner (2012); Green Architecture: Chicago Athenaeum, Green Good Design Award (2012); Engineering News Record (ENR) New York, Best Projects (2012); Architizer A+ Awards, Landscape-Parks (2012); and Excellence in Design, New York City Public Design Commission Award (2012).

About Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Founded in 1910, Brooklyn Botanic Garden (BBG) is an independent nonprofit institution committed to education, science, and horticultural display. The Garden is located on property owned by the City of New York, and its operation is made possible in part by public funds provided through the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. For more than a century, BBG has served communities in New York City and internationally through its extraordinary gardens, extensive living collections, and pioneering educational and community programs. The Garden continues today its legacy of educating new generations of environmental stewards. Situated on 52 acres in the heart of Brooklyn and originally laid out by the Olmsted Brothers landscape design firm, BBG is home to more than 12,000 types of plants and hosts more than 750,000 visitors annually. Brooklyn Botanic Garden was rated Brooklyn’s number one tourist attraction in Zagat’s 2008 Best of Brooklyn. For more information, visit

WEISS/MANFREDI Architecture/Landscape/Urbanism is a multidisciplinary design practice based in New York City. Founded by Marion Weiss and Michael Manfredi, the firm is known for the dynamic integration of architecture, art, infrastructure, and landscape design. The firm’s projects, including the Seattle Art Museum’s Olympic Sculpture Park, the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Nanotechnology, and the Women’s Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery, exemplify the potential of architecture to transform public space. The firm has won numerous awards, including the Academy Award for Architecture from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the international VR Green Prize for Urban Design. They have also been named one of North America's "Emerging Voices" by the Architectural League of New York, and received the New York City AIA Gold Medal of Honor. Michael Manfredi has been the Gensler Visiting Professor at Cornell University and Marion Weiss is the Graham Chair Professor of Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania.

Project Partners
In addition to WEISS/MANFREDI, Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Visitor Center was developed with a team of design, engineering, and construction partners, including HMWhite (landscape architecture consultant); Thinc Design (exhibition designers); the LiRo Group (construction management); E.W. Howell (general contractor); Weidlinger Associates (structural and civil engineers); Langan (geothermal, geotechnical, and environmental consultants); Viridian Energy & Environment (sustainability consultants); Jaros, Baum & Bolles Consulting Engineers (M/E/P/FP and IT engineers)—and Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s own staff.

Note to Media: For further information, images, or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Brooklyn Botanic Garden

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