LeFrak Center

The restoration of Lakeside and the addition of new public sports and recreation facilities afforded an opportunity for the architects to revive the former splendours of the famous 19-th century park, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux in Brooklyn.

Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects, LeFrak Center at Lakeside
This article was originally published on Domus 987, January 2015
Spearheaded by the Prospect Park Alliance and the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, the LeFrak Center at Lakeside (Brooklyn, New York) is a new yearround skating and recreation facility.
Prospekt Park, 1867
Prospect Park is a 237-hectare public park in New York’s borough of Brooklyn. It was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux after having completed Central Park in Manhattan. This archive photo of skaters on the frozen pond was taken soon after the inauguration in 1867
With programming that includes winter ice-skating, summer roller skating and a warm-weather water feature, combined with ten hectares of restored landscape and vastly improved park access, the LeFrak Center at Lakeside is an extraordinary new destination in Prospect Park.
Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects, LeFrak Center
Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects, LeFrak Center. Visitors follow a curved wall to enter the Center. Laurentian green granite from Quebec cut into almost 9-cm-thick split-faced blocks clad the building. This material was selected to relate to the rugged granite that was one of Olmsted and Vaux’s favourite building materials
Constructed of rough-hewn green granite, the LeFrak Center is embedded in the topography of the park like a stone landscape-retaining  wall. The L-shaped plan consists of the east block and north block, both one-story structures, connected by a bridge at the roof level. They frame a regulation-size hockey rink that sits beneath a monumental canopy supported  by irregularly placed columns. The canopy underside is midnight blue and carved with silver shapes inspired by figure skating footwork patterns. A second elliptical rink converts into a water-play feature in the summer. Pathways bring visitors up to the earthen covered roofs, where a terrace overlooks the rinks and the lake beyond, allowing generous views of the park. 
Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects, LeFrak Center
Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects, LeFrak Center. As part of the revitalisation effort, Prospect Park’s shoreline and Music Island have been restored to their original design. The esplanade along the lake and the paved pathways have been improved for walkers, joggers and bikers. Picnic areas and open lawns have been expanded by almost 1.2 hectares
The LeFrak Center at Lakeside is a truly public place for pleasure, where proficiency and poetry cross paths. The LeFrak Center minimises its impact on the existing landscape by utilising an area formerly occupied by a parking lot, and replacing its impervious surface with green roofs and a newly planted landscape. The buildings, which are buried into the land, optimise thermal efficiency, reducing the need for artificial cooling and heating. The roof of the canopy is planted with sedum and areas of the roof terrace are planted with shrubs and grasses.
Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects, LeFrak Center
Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects, LeFrak Center. The solid stone walls are interrupted by openings that frame the surrounding landscape. A 27-metre-long and 2.5-metre-tall decorative tile mural is inset in the entry wall; its colours and pattern evoke the changing seasons
Water is collected from the planted areas and re-circulated for irrigation. The refrigeration system for the ice rinks utilises ammonia,  which is a very efficient refrigerant and does not contribute to ozone depletion. Any extra heat recovered from the refrigeration process is used to pre-heat the building’s water, further increasing energy efficiency. The construction materials are locally sourced and/or with high recycled content whenever possible. All of the wood used is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or reclaimed.
Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects, LeFrak Center
Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects, LeFrak Center. The buildings are configured around existing trees, and new walkways lead visitors to the roof terraces, which are planted with shrubs and grasses. This plane tree is an original from Olmsted and Vaux’s plan
LEDs are used for lighting and low-flow plumbing fixtures  allow maximum water efficiency. The exterior walls consist of Laurentian green granite from Quebec, and a floor-to-ceiling stainless steel and glass window system. The building is clad in 9-centimetre-thick split-faced granite laid in a load bearing, random ashlar pattern. At lintels, wall openings, and parapets, a thermal finish is used rather than the split face finish. The elliptical rink’s perimeter, housing the water feature and also serving as a bench, has a low honed finish. A 27-metre-long and 2.5-metre-tall mural of decorative tile is inset in the entry wall. The colours and pattern, designed by the architects, evokes the changing seasons.
Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects, LeFrak Center
Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects, LeFrak Center. The canopy’s underside is made in synthetic stucco painted midnight blue and carved with a silver design inspired by patterns of figure skating
The building’s roofs are partially paved in flamed bluestone. The bridge that connects the two buildings at the roof level is clad in bronze panels with bronze guardrails. The deck and ceiling are made of 100-year-old reclaimed teak. The canopy, floating 7 metres above the ground, is supported by ten columns clad in saw-cut Laurentian green granite panels. The canopy’s spandrel is wrapped in lead coating copper, and the ceiling is a coloured synthetic stucco accentuated by silver-painted metallic engravings.
The restoration at Lakeside has added an additional 3 hectares to one of the  most densely used areas of Prospect Park and honours the original Olmsted and Vaux vision. As part of this revitalisation, Music Island and the esplanade have been restored to their original design, pedestrian pathways have been  improved, picnic areas, walkways and open lawns have been expanded, a new promenade has been added along the lakeshore for walkers and joggers, along with a new boat dock. 
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LeFrak Center at Lakeside Prospect Park, Brooklyn, New York
Architect: Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects
Design team: Tod Williams, Billie Tsien, Andy Kim (Project manager), Elisa Testa, Erin Putalik,
Nate Petty, Shengning Zhang
Construction Manager: Sciame Construction
Civil engineering: Stantec
Rink refrigeration: Van Boerum & Frank Associates
Structural engineering: Robert Silman Associates
Mechanical, electrical and plumbing engineering: ICOR Associates
Acoustics, audiovisual: Acoustic Dimensions
Geotechnical engineering: Richard Kessler
Graphic design: Poulin + Morris
Green roof: Roofmeadow
Landscape design: Prospect Park Alliance Dept of Design and Construction
Lighting engineering: Renfro Design Group
Security: Ducibella Venter & Santore
Client: Prospect Park Alliance
Lakeside Project Surface area: 10.5 ha
Floor area: 7,000 smq
Total floor area: 3,150 smq
Design phase: 2006–2011
Construction phase: 02.2011–12.20

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