Rafael Vinoly Architects' expansion of the Brooklyn Children's Museum, located at the intersection of Brooklyn Avenue and St. Marks Avenue in Crown Heights, has been certified LEED Silver, making it New York City's first LEED-certified museum. In addition, it has been awarded a 2009 Building Brooklyn Award in the "Institutional" category from the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce's Real Estate and Development Committee. In winning this award, the BCC recognizes the Brooklyn Children's Museum as a project that has enriched Brooklyn's neighborhoods and economy. With this recognition and its LEED Silver certification, RVA's design for the Brooklyn Children's Museum has proven to be both environmentally sound and enriching to its outlying community.
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 Vinoly 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.
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 integrated with the existing structure add a spacious lobby, exhibition galleries, classrooms, a library, a cafe, a gift shop, and administrative space.
Child-friendly features include low-level handrails and porthole windows. Whenever possible, construction utilized rapidly renewable and recycled materials and also incorporated high-performance/sustainable features. The museum is the first in New York City to employ geothermal wells for heating and cooling purposes.
"The design of the Brooklyn Children's Museum is a force for shaping the creativity of young minds," says Rafael Vinoly. "Its expanded presence in the neighborhood elicits a visceral, instinctive response in children that's exciting to see."
The expansion by Rafael Vinoly Architects' has provided a new gallery for temporary exhibitions, such as this summer's "Run! Jump! Fly! Adventures in Action" show, and easy access to the Museum's outdoor plaza, site of the summer Target Free Family Friday Jams concert series.