Friday, November 11, 2011
Yesterday I attended the ceremonial opening of BLDG 92 at the Brooklyn Navy Yard (hence the distracting tent visible below), a museum, education and employment center that opens to the public today, Veteran's Day. Located at Flushing and Carlton Avenues, on the southern edge of the Navy Yard, BLDG 92 and its exhibitions are free, but they do offer bus and bike tours for a fee. BLDG 92 is housed in two connected structures: Building 92, designed by Thomas Ustick Walter in 1858 as the U.S. Marine Corps Commandant's Residence, and an addition located behind it; the L-shape plan creates a courtyard behind the sidewalk fence. BLDG 92 is designed by Beyer Blinder Belle and workshop/apd, and an educated guess would credit the former with the older building's restoration and the latter with the 20,000-sf addition.
Seen on the approach from Carlton Avenue (above), the addition's facade displays an image of the USS Brooklyn as it left the yard in 1936, or so the literature says; the image can be hard to decipher, but it nevertheless appears to say "industry." This one word may sum up the whole of BLDG 92, which traces the long history of the yard from a center of shipbuilding to its current incarnation as a hub for various industrial trades, including film making, prefab home construction, and even art. The word "jobs," strongly related to industry, was the buzzword during yesterday's unveiling, primarily in the announcement that the yard's tenants vow to create 300 jobs using the employment center housed in BLDG 92. This statement frames the project and yard within the larger economic climate. That number of jobs may be small when thought of relative to the huge footprint of the yard, but it's nevertheless positive press for a place that maintains industries that don't have room in other parts of the city.
Back to the architecture, what follows is a tour from the street to the top of the building. The courtyard (below, designed by D.I.R.T. Studio) is an especially nice space, though with the aforementioned tent it was hard to appreciate the scale next to the old building.
The courtyard is articulated with three major elements: trees, benches (below) and sloping walls of Corten steel that are "cut" to provide access across the courtyard to the building entry.
With a geometry best seen from the fourth-floor cafe (below, more on the cafe later), the series of steel walls are like pieces of an old ship rising through the ground or excavated in the process of construction.
On the approach to the building entrance (below), which is tucked into the corner of the "L" created by the addition and old building, it's apparent that the perforated metal sunshade with the USS Brooklyn image and the volume behind it are angled away from the glass box. This angle aids in finding the entry, subtly point towards it.
Looking up at this metal facade (below), it's clear that it is hung a few inches away from the glass walls behind it.
The entrance proper (below) is under a simple steel canopy that projects from a glass curtain wall situated between the quoining of the old building and the perforated metal of the new facade.
Once inside, the organization of the building is very clear. The space behind the glass curtain wall (below) is a tall atrium space that links the old and new buildings. A couple artifacts fill the space: an old anchor (just out of shot at bottom left) and the LUMI-SOLAR street lamp, a wind-solar street lamp designed and manufactured by tenant Duggal that is installed throughout the Navy Yard.
On the second and third floor, bridges traverse the space (above and below), linking the exhibition spaces found in the old building with the restrooms, offices, employment center, and education spaces in the addition. The wall opposite the main entrance (at left in below photo) features another image, this time a photo, of a ship built at the Navy Yard. In a sense this photo helps clarify any confusion about the image perforated in metal outside.
The views from the bridges (below) are especially nice. Note the skylight between old and new, a gap that will illuminate the north facade of the old building in the warmer months when the sun is overhead.
"Brooklyn Navy Yard: Past, Present and Future" is presented across three floors of the old building. A double-height space (above) is entered on the first floor, while a curving space (below) is found opposite it on the same floor; a stair linking the different levels separate these spaces. Needless to say the exhibition is a visually saturated view of the Navy Yard over the years.
Occupying one half of the old building's third floor is Gallery 92 (below), a more sedate space that displays "tenant work, new collections and materials, art and historic interpretation." The space has a Zen-like calm compared with the other exhibition rooms.
On the fourth floor of the addition is a cafe with great views of the yard to the north (above) and west.
An L-shaped outdoor terrace offers close-up glimpses of the green roofs and the perforated metal facade (above) and distant views of downtown Brooklyn (below) over the rooftops of adjacent Navy Yard buildings. The views of the rest of the yard especially make the rooftop a fitting culmination for BLDG 92. It looks outward to what is happening now, just as it looks backward within the exhibitions on display.
Posted by John Hill at 12:00 PM