Friday, February 22, 2008

Veg.itecture: Queens Botanical Garden Visitors Center

It really amazes me the composition of buildings envisioned 5 years ago versus today, and the short time period that has elapsed between sporadic vegetated architecture examples and the explosion of current projects. Some days, it seems hard to keep up. Here's a new, built example in NYC:

:: image via NYT City Room

A note from Archinect announced the opening of BKSK Architects' Visitor's Center for the Queen's Botanical Garden. Partially earth sheltered, and partially vegetated building, this LEED-Platinum building is a stunning expression of the QBC's mission: "...a living museum serving the most ethnically diverse county in the United States, is committed to presenting collections, education and research initiatives and programs that demonstrate environmental stewardship, promote sustainability and celebrate the rich cultural connections between people and plants."

:: images via Wired New York

Another recent article in Metropolis featured the project, 'A Garden Blooms in Queens' with some great photography and a wonderful overview. Here's the an overall plan (top), a photo of the ecoroof (middle) and the water feature at the end of the cleansing biotope (bottom):

:: Plan: Click to Enlarge - image via Metropolis

:: additional images via Metropolis

A major strategy in LEED-Platinum is water-efficiency, and the building has an agressive plan for On-Site Rainwater Reuse (via Metropolis), including the rooftop and biotope spaces:

"On-site Rainwater Management: When children come to visit the garden, members of its educa­tion staff perform a very simple experiment, Jennifer Ward Souder says. “They put red-tinted water in a length of clear glass pipe, which contains a thick layer of soil. When the water comes out at the other end, it’s clear.” The same experiment is operating on a much larger scale all around them: the new building and the grounds around it have been designed to capture and filter rain. Since the building was completed in September, there has been plenty of rainfall, and none of it has entered the city’s sewers, which is important because they carry effluent and storm water through the same pipes; when they overflow during a deluge, they pollute the city’s rivers. “We set the goal of one hundred percent storm-water management on-site,” Souder says. So far the goal is being met.

1. TERRACE ROOF Rainwater collected on the gull-shaped roof over the building’s plaza pours down dramatically into a “cleansing biotope.”

2. CLEANSING BIOTOPE Captured rainwater enters a catchment area (augmented by a 24,000-gallon underground tank), where it is filtered through soil and the roots of native wetland plants, including soft rush, pickerelweed, and cattail."

Even some of the details were arboreal, with an main entrance gate in metal tree-form:

:: image via Metropolis

The ability to have a building and site strongly reflect the mission of an organization is a statement of the quality of designers and clients both. A Botanical Garden leading the way with innovative sustainable landscape strategies is laudable, and striving for high LEED rating, as well as taking advantage of extremely refined approaches, makes this a case study for all to study.

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