Brooklyn Heights

Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates create illustrated book telling story of transformative waterfront park

Brooklyn Bridge Park has become award-winning
public landscape, model for adaptive reuse

March 1, 2024 Special to Brooklyn Eagle
Summer in Brooklyn Bridge Park. Photo: Etienne Frossard
Share this:

Full slideshow below

Brooklyn Live LogoBROOKLYN BRIDGE PARK — This transformative miracle on the waterfront, the conversion of six abandoned and derelict shipping piers along the East River into a lush, eighty-five-acre landscape, has been an international success. Once dominated by flat, paved surfaces with no shade or seating and overwhelmed by traffic noise, the site is now a place to enjoy the sunlight and sea breezes looking out to the skyline of Lower Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty.

A beautiful, sumptuous book of generous images has now been published to capture this story. While the book outwardly looks like an impressive “coffee table” treasure, it is a comprehensive, definitive record of the struggle and ultimate triumph of designing a space that went from a remote possibility to an essential part of the city around it. Today, the park attracts more than five million visitors a year.

A crowd watching a pianist in Brooklyn Bridge Park. Photo: Alexa Hoyer
A crowd watching a pianist in Brooklyn Bridge Park.
Photo: Alexa Hoyer

“Brooklyn Bridge Park” illustrates a project that was more than twenty years in the making. The book takes readers on a journey from the park’s inception in 1999 and through several design and construction phases until its completion in 2021 with the dedication of the Emily Roebling Plaza under the Brooklyn Bridge. Through seven chapters, it highlights the challenges, insights, and innovations concerning key elements of the project, building on more than a decade of reflection. There is the improved access and newly designed urban connections to the waterfront, which bring the energy of the city into the formerly isolated site; the massive, constructed topography, which offers tranquil spaces and dramatic vistas; the sound-deflecting landform, which shelters the site from highway noise; the abundant plantings which strive to be big-hearted and ecologically high performing; the reuse of found materials which were employed for everything from furniture to stone terraces; and of course, the re-engineering of the water’s edge which honors the dynamism of the tidal East River.

Subscribe to our newsletters

Brooklyn Bridge Park book
Image courtesy of Monacelli

To complement the chapter texts, the book also includes three thoughtful short essays: a foreword by landscape architect and educator Julie Bargmann, an introduction by Michael Van Valkenburgh and an afterword by writer, editor and author Amanda Hesser. Heavily illustrated with early site visit shots, realized and unrealized plans and sketches and current park photography, the book closes with a photo essay that takes readers on a tour from Red Hook to Dumbo, celebrating what it feels like to be in the park, shifting attention from the design to the visitors who give it vitality and meaning.

Reclaimed from 1.3 miles of New York’s post-industrial waterfront, Brooklyn Bridge Park sets a benchmark for waterfront projects globally and is a place for escape, recreation, and immersion in the natural world. This book is an important account of the transformation of deserted parking lots and crumbling piers into a living ecosystem, and a project that is an exemplar of climate resilience, fiscal innovation, and joyful public space.

Kayaking in Brooklyn Bridge Park
Kayaking in Brooklyn Bridge Park.
Photo: Etienne Frossard

About the Authors 

Michael Van Valkenburgh is the founder of Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, a leading landscape architecture firm with award-winning parks, urban spaces, and campus landscapes across North America. He is the Charles Eliot Emeritus Professor in Landscape Architecture at Harvard GSD.

Julie Bargmann is a Professor of Landscape Architecture at the University of Virginia School of Architecture and founding principal of D.I.R.T. Studio.

Amanda Hesser is a well-known food writer, editor, entrepreneur, and founder and CEO of Food52.

Elijah Chilton is the Director of Communications and design writer at Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates.

Brooklyn Bridge via Elizabeth Felicella
Photo: Elizabeth Felicella

About Monacelli 

As a leading publisher of illustrated books for more than twenty-five years, Monacelli has challenged the conventions of publishing to produce provocative, inspiring, and essential titles. Founded in 1994 by Gianfranco Monacelli, the organization has released nearly 600 books on architecture, art, interior design, landscape and gardens, photography, and the applied arts. Monacelli’s books have been made in collaboration with prominent practitioners and scholars ever since its inaugural title, the groundbreaking “S,M,L,XL” by Rem Koolhaas and Bruce Mau. In 2015, the applied arts imprint Monacelli Studio was launched, adding elevated books on art instruction, photography technique, and crafts to the publisher’s roster. In 2020, Monacelli joined the Phaidon family of companies.

Full slideshow below

Leave a Comment

Leave a Comment