Size doesn’t matter, at least not when it comes to Brooklyn Bridge Park, its chief designer told a rapt audience this week.
“The park is 65 acres, but experientially, in its scale, it is the size of Central Park,” said Michael Van Valkenburgh, the renown landscape architect charged with designing much of the park.
Van Valkenburgh said the park, which is being constructed in phases, is similar in scope to Manhattan’s 900-acre urban oasis, because of the 800-acres of water that frame it. It was this topographical good fortune that has informed his design, which endeavors to engage visitors, he told the Brooklyn Heights Association at its 100th annual meeting, convened at Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims on Feb. 23.
And its not just an appreciation of natural beauty that he hopes to inspire. At Piers 1 for example, Van Valkenburgh said he designed an organizational lawn to help visitors take stock in the majesty of the man-made structures nearby, like the Brooklyn Bridge.
Pier 1 and Pier 6 are the first sections of the park expected to open soon. Eventually, the park will stretch 1.3 miles along the East River from north of the Manhattan Bridge to Atlantic Avenue.
Van Valkenburgh said he considers Pier 2 to be one of the more important pieces to the project, as it will draw users into the park with an array of active recreational uses, including basketball and handball courts.
“Activities that draw people to the middle are extremely important,” he said.
Van Valkenburgh,a Heights resident, said that some day, the goal is be to connect the park’s piers. This would “greatly diversify the ways that people can use the park,” he noted.
The landscape architect drew warm applause not just at the close of his hour-long talk, but also when he revealed that the wood — Longleaf Yellow Pine — that will be used in the park’s benches will come from the very wood from the aging storage buildings the park is replacing. A wood expert, he said, has been carefully sorting through timber to select the right pieces for the benches, he noted. A picture of one of the benches sparked the audience reaction. “You gave me goosebumps — but I had little to do with the design of that bench,” he admitted.