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BKSK channels creativity with Queens Botanical Center.

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BKSK Architects have designed a $22 million visitor and administration center at the Queens Botanical Center with a series of labyrinthine water channels and sluices so elaborate they just may have given the designers of the Roman Aqueduct a run for their money.

"We did workshops a several years ago and discovered the branch of the Flushing River that is buried underneath the garden. That became a metaphor for us starting to think about water, the way water is respected in so many cultures around the world, particularly in Asian cultures which are prevalent around this neighborhoods. It was clear to us that it was a good choice when we decided that we were going to focus the design of the center around it," said Susan Lacerte, executive director of the Queens Botanical Gardens.

When the center--the heart of the gardens sustainability initiative and a pilot project for the city--celebrated its grand opening Sept. 28 guests were invited to follow these channels along the property and view the work BKSK architects, in collaboration with landscape architects Atlier Dreiseitl, Conservation Design Forum, and the Queens Botanical Garden, did to create a place where people could replenish themselves near the water. They viewed the "floating roof' whose wing shaped folds are supported by canted red columns rooted in the ground and serve to collect rain water. They imagined how it would sound when on rainy days they were allowed to stand underneath those folds and listen to the sounds of the water cascading off the canopy and into the channels and pools (or biotopes) on the side of the building. Staff members demonstrated how the water is absorbed into the roots of native plants and is cleaned, before it is pumped back into a fountain at the gardens entry. The fountain water cascaded down a screen that was visible to guests before it was shuttled through a watercourse. Eventually the water is returned to the biotope where the cycle begins again.

Water also supports the interior of the building. Water to heat and cool the building is drawn from a massive aquifer 300 feet underground and regulated by a geothermal system. Waste water from the systems sinks and showers is cleansed in an adjacent wetland planted with marsh grasses and then piped back into the facility for flush toilets.

An 8,000 s/f green roof atop the buildings auditorium also helps absorb water while simultaneously feeding the wide array of native plants which can be viewed by the public.

The project developers hope the engineering feats being demonstrated in designing the 15,831 s/f center will garner it the distinction of being the first new building in New York City to achieve LEED Platinum certification from the United States Green Building Council for new construction.

"New York also has a lot of water management issues. We need to figure out more effective ways of using water. So, in a way we wanted to serve as a model of how you can manage water on site and use water on site," said Jennifer Ward Souder, assistant director of the garden and director of capital projects.
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Title Annotation:ARCHITECTURE
Comment:BKSK channels creativity with Queens Botanical Center.(ARCHITECTURE)
Author:Wolffe, Danielle
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Oct 3, 2007
Words:526
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