Location Brooklyn, NY
Size 32,568 square feet
Program Exhibition areas, teaching space, offices, and a café
There was a time when the Brooklyn Navy Yard was a vibrant, buzzing hub of shipbuilding and trade. But that was in the late 1700s, and gradually the one-time manufacturing hotspot became derelict. That is, until Mayor Michael Bloomberg unleashed an initiative to resurrect some of New York City’s old manufacturing strongholds. Matthew Berman, one of the principals of design firm Workshop/apd, takes gb&d through the reimagined space.
Working in collaboration with Beyer Blinder Belle Architects & Planners, one of New York City’s most prestigious architecture firms, Workshop/apd tackled one of the Navy Yard’s most important sites: Building 92. The structure used to serve as the US Marine Commandant’s residence and was designed by Thomas Ustick Walter, the same architect behind the dome on the United States Capitol. “It was a building that had fallen into disrepair,” Berman says. “There were holes in the roof, and time had really done its worst. It was a building that deserved to be restored.”
Architects Workshop/apd, Beyer Blinder Belle Architects & Planners
Engineer Robert Silman Associates
Landscape Architect D.I.R.T. Studio Metal Work Ferra Design
Custom Carpentry Bien Hecho
Making Building 92 as green as possible was an obvious idea. “From the moment we got involved, it was clear this was going to be an extremely green building,” Berman says. LEED Platinum was set as the benchmark, and the designers never deviated. Which dovetailed brilliantly with Navy Yard director Andrew Kimball’s vision to revitalize the industrial elements in a sustainable way.
As far as Berman is concerned, one of Workshop/apd’s coolest scores was the discovery of an underground sewer pipe. “It was huge; you could drive through it,” he says. “We capped it at both ends and used it as our rainwater-storage tank.” All the water is retained through a harvesting system and filtered for later use. There are also solar-hot-water installations on the upper roof and low-maintenance trays on the lower green roof to catch the water and channel into the container.
The façade is a solar screen with a laser-cut pattern of the USS Brooklyn in dry dock. The Navy Yard’s outer gate, along Flushing Avenue, is water-cut and was conceptualized by Ferra Designs, a tenant in the Navy Yard.
Berman and his crew tried to source the majority of the materials from within the Navy Yard—from lighting to pre-fabricated concrete and steel units by a company called Capsys. “They brought them over by tractor,” Berman laughs. “It was literally that close.” Other highlights include low-VOC materials on the interiors, high-efficiency lighting, and bathroom countertops by IceStone, a recycled glass manufacturer in the Navy Yard.
Much of the interior was completed by John Randall’s full-service millwork company, Bien Hecho. Like many members of the project team, Bien Hecho is local to the Navy Yard. “We created the front doors, which were made out of red oak and were historic representations of an original 1840s design,” Randall says. He also installed cabinetry, countertops, and giant doors that act almost like moveable walls in the café. Randall used FSC-certified wood from less than 250 miles away in Pennsylvania.
Certification LEED Platinum (expected)
Water Reclaimed sewer pipe repurposed for rainwater storage
Materials Recycled, salvaged, and sourced from within Navy Yard
Julie Bargmann and her company, D.I.R.T. (Dump It Right There), handled the landscape design and made a point to go all-native. “It’s not even just plants,” Berman says. “She’s really into rubble—anything that’s local and reclaimed. The whole back area is called the ‘Bone Yard’ and takes a lot of the cool but miscellaneous scrap metal and turns it into art.” There’s also recycled teak in the benches in the front courtyard, and the steel is all reclaimed from a short distance away.