The Robert W. Wilson Overlook creates a new destination in New York City's Brooklyn Botanic Garden. The Overlook site, formerly an eroding slope, precluded an accessible route to the garden’s north entry from Eastern Parkway and the subway. Transforming this 1.25-acre slope, the Garden's most significant unprogrammed area, the Overlook features a new wandering garden through flowering Crape myrtle trees and a four-season planting design of ornamental grasses and perennials. The former Overlook site, an eroding slope that could not sustain plantings, provided inadequate access between its upper pathway and Cherry Esplanade: The new, accessible route encourages visitor engagement with BBG’s landscape through the creation of communal gathering spaces and new vantage points. The design for the Overlook introduces an elegant switchback pathway with sculptural retaining walls that enhance the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s circulation in one of its most highly visited areas by connecting the top and bottom of the Overlook hillside. The Overlook’s striking visual planes and ever-evolving landscape will add to the Garden’s inherent drama through four seasons. The design directly addresses the accessibility limitations of the original Overlook site. The curving path leading from Cherry Esplanade to the top of the Overlook has been designed to accommodate visitors of all abilities and offer seated resting areas. The Crape myrtle trees create a spectacular flower display of whites and pinks in late summer as a visual counterpoint to the spring Cherry Blossom Festival. The trees' beautiful exfoliating cinnamon bark and unique multi-stem form extend their visual appeal into the winter. The hillside planting is designed to choreograph a lush and varied display of botanical beauty. Grasses and perennials combine to form a robust, resilient ecosystem which will evolve over time, inviting a diversity of insect and butterfly life, and stabilizing the soil to prevent erosion. The lead designers of the project collaborated with the client to assist in securing the grant that ultimately funded the project. Following the acceptance of this concept, the team expanded to include team members with horticulture expertise as well as engineers that designed the structure, core stability, and supportive tree and plant loads. Additionally, custom adjustable light poles were designed to blend into the tree canopy and provide soft illumination from dawn to dusk. The project benefited from the robust collaborative spirit that connected client, community, designers, engineers, and contractors throughout the entire process. The Overlook redefines the relationship between visitor and garden, creating an accessible and public destination that introduces visitors to beautiful plantings across visual planes that rise from the ground to eye level. With its ever-evolving landscape, the Overlook adds a new cinematic experience to the unfolding world of BBG’s garden.
Weiss/Manfredi Architecture/Landscape/Urbanism is at the forefront of architectural design practices that are redefining the relationships between landscape, architecture, infrastructure, and art. The firm has spearheaded various design efforts that require progressive ecological and infrastructural frameworks, placing environmental stewardship and sustainability at the core of Weiss/Manfredi's work. These frameworks support the public-facing nature of the practice’s work, seen in projects like the Olympic Sculpture Park, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden Visitor Center, and Hunter's Point South Waterfront Park. Other built works include the Barnard College Diana Center, Yale University's Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking, the Tata Innovation Center at Cornell Tech, and the Women's Memorial and Education Center at Arlington National Cemetery. Current projects include the Tampa Museum of Art expansion and the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, India.