Last night’s sudden downpour wasn’t about to dampen the spirits of the 500 guests attending the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Spring Gala. “It’s very festive, in spite of the weather!” laughed Laura Hansplant. Ms. Hansplant wasn’t put off by the sudden location change to the great indoors and said she was mostly looking forward to seeing the “spectacular dresses,” designed by Nicole Dextras and constructed from flowers.
The dresses in question were inspired by the design of the newly opened visitor center. “I’m primarily inspired by nature and in particular the flowers and leaves I find in my own garden, but due to the opening of this new center I took my main inspiration from the living roof,” Ms. Dextras said as we watched one of the three models walk past, dressed head to toe in banana leaves, roses and moss. “I wasn’t worried about the rain, as these dresses are completely natural. It was more a case of having their make-up run.”
Architects Michael Manfredi and Marion Weiss both received special recognition for their design. “We wanted to create something that was both a blend of the city and the garden. Almost as if the building acts as a seduction to visitors.” Mr. Manfredi said.
“It’s like a new world,” Ms. Weiss added, “with a much slower pace. We want people to have a whole new experience when they come here.
With its 10,000 square foot living roof, dramatic leaf-shaped event room and sinuous glass wall embedded into an existing hillside, it’s clear to see why this new building has created quite a stir.
President of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Scot Medbury, told The Observer he believes buildings such as this one are the future.
“Many of our features are made from recycled materials including the wall paneling and counters, and the building itself is very energy-efficient with its geoexchange system for heating and cooling.”
The guests too seemed to notice the detailing. “The walls are made from ginkgo trees, you know,” stated Richard Hulbert, a well-dressed man sipping champagne. “They’re not meant to be a building material but I think it’s a great way to preserve them as part of the gardens forever.”
Mr. Hulbert was also not put off by the weather, and considered the long view. “Think of it this way, this building wasn’t even here a year ago. We’re a lot drier then we would have been!” Truer words have never been spoken.
Later in the evening, Edward O. Wilson, Pulitzer Prize-winning biologist, conservationist, researcher and author, was presented with the Botanic Garden’s Visionary Award.
“I’m thrilled of course!” Mr. Wilson exclaimed, when asked how he felt about the award. “It’s great to be recognized as a visionary. It’s very complimentary.”
The Observer was curious as to whether the 83-year-old was planning on retiring anytime soon.
“If anything it makes me more determined to continue the work I’ve been doing!” Mr. Wilson laughed. “And the new building is the perfect setting for such an event. It flows into the feel and spirit of the garden. It’s so close to nature.”
Looking around the crowded room of hustling, bustling groups of people, each one desperately trying to catch the eye of a passing waiter with his recently refreshed tray of shrimp, it was clear to The Observer who was there for the event, and who was there to simply get in as many photos as possible. Yes, Joy Marks, we’re talking to you–but to be fair, dressed in a stunning, lemon, floor-length Bob Evans gown, it was hard not to notice her.
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