Rafael Viñoly Architects' expansion of the Brooklyn Children's Museum, located at the intersection of Brooklyn Avenue and St. Marks Avenue in Crown Heights, has reached substantial completion. It is slated to be New York City's first LEED Silver museum.
The museum was founded in 1899 and expanded on its current site in 1977. In 1999, it began to seek ways to increase capacity and to create a new public presence for the twenty-first century. Rafael Viñoly Architects has achieved this by creating a distinctive L-shaped, two-story structure that differs from its context in color as well as physical form, yet remains welcoming and deferential to the museum's existing built fabric. The plan doubles the museum's space to 102,000 square feet and is expected to expand its annual visitor capacity from 250,000 to 400,000.
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The architecture of the new building is compelling and inviting to children, its glittering envelope of 8.1 million yellow ceramic tiles creating a landmark attraction.
Two stories of new construction add a spacious lobby, exhibition galleries, classrooms, a library, a café, a gift shop, and incremental administrative space.
This expansion is integrated with the existing structure and provides visitors with enhanced circulation, including clear access to the existing rooftop terrace and outdoor theater that overlooks a public park to the south that is now linked directly to the new second-floor exhibition galleries and the Kids' Café.
Throughout the building, specially-designed features ensure child accessibility: for instance, additional wooden handrails are mounted at a low level, and porthole windows punctuate the building envelope at a variety of heights and angles, yielding a series of unique, elevated perspectives on the neighborhood.
Whenever possible, construction utilized rapidly renewable and recycled materials, such as bamboo and recycled-rubber flooring, and also incorporated high-performance/sustainable features. The museum will be the first in New York City to employ geothermal wells for heating and cooling purposes. Photovoltaic cells on exterior walls convert solar energy directly into electrical power, and energy-saving sensors control the interior lighting and ventilation systems.
Throughout construction, the museum has largely remained open to the public, closing only for the final stages of construction. Its reopening is scheduled for September 20, following the installation of new science and cultural exhibits.
"The design of the Brooklyn Children's Museum is a force for shaping the creativity of young minds," says Rafael Viñoly. "Its expanded presence in the neighborhood elicits a visceral, instinctive response in children that's exciting to see."
Rafael Viñoly Architects' project director for the museum's renovation and expansion is David Rolland, who led the firm's David L. Lawrence Convention Center project in Pittsburgh, and Duke University's Nasher Museum of Art in Durham, North Carolina. The Department of Design and Construction served as the museum's project manager for the City of New York.
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