Prospect Park in Brooklyn, NY, which was originally constructed in the 1860s, had become a blighted area in the middle of the 20th century, and at the time, was turned into the Kate Wollman Memorial skating complex. But in the past 50 years, the park has slowly declined. With public and private funds, the Prospect Park Alliance partnered with Tod Williams & Billie Tsien Architects (TWBTA) of New York, NY, to create a new modern design called the LeFrak Center at Lakeside that seamlessly integrates landscape and architecture.
“With programming that includes winter ice skating, summer roller-skating and a warm-weather water feature, combined with 26 acres of restored landscape and vastly improved park access, the LeFrak Center at Lakeside is an extraordinary new destination in Prospect Park,” said Andy Kim, project manager at TWBTA. “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 project features 30,000 square feet of 3 ½-inch-thick Laurentain Green granite wall pieces with a split-face finish, which measure up to 5 x 18 inches — supplied and fabricated by Polycor of Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. “The Lakeside Center at Prospect Park was one-of-a-kind for Polycor,” said Hugo Vega, vice president of sales for architectural projects for Polycor. “The main goals were to come up with a thick veneer (3 ½ inches) application at a competitive price to fit budget constraints. We worked very closely with TWBTA to establish an appropriate finish and color to suit design intent. It was very educative for both parties, as it was a first for TWBTA using split-face granite, and so we had extensive discussions on ‘true’ split-face versus rock-pitched edge treatment between pieces of different finishes, corner conditions, anchoring details, air space between stone and backup wall, etc.”
The stone was laid in a random ashlar pattern and given different treatments, including low honed, flamed and saw cut, depending on where the stone was located. “The more architectural elements, like the canopy columns, achieve a sharper and smoother finish, while main massing walls of the two building blocks are guillotined, with edges untreated, for as roughhewn and natural a reading as possible,” said Kim. “In all cases, the thickness of the stone pieces is revealed at the corners with a staggered corner pattern — no mitering was allowed. The stone paving at the green roof is flamed Bluestone cut in upstate New York. Bluestone matches the original paving in the adjacent restored Concert Grove.” The 14,000 square feet of flamed Bluestone at the green roof is 2 feet x 2 feet x 2 inches — supplied by Lilac Quarries of Gilbertsville, NY.
The project also featured Laurentain Green granite 24- x 24-inch pavers with a 1 ¼-inch thickness with a thermal finish. Additionally, Laurentain Green granite with a thermal finish was used for coping and curbing, while the design also included Laurentain Green cobblestones that were 10 x 5 x 5 inches and Laurentain Green granite donor walls — with a honed finish — which were 13- x 4-foot panels.
“The Laurentain Green granite is a very dark green granite from Canada,” said Vega. “The quarry and fabrication facility is located within a 500-mile radius of Prospect Park. Unlike many other green granites, it will not fade to yellow once exposed to UVs, making it an excellent material for exterior use.”
Blending the building
When it came to the design and installation, the goal was to make the buildings seem like a part of the landscape. According to William F. Torres, the project manager for the installation company, Wilkstone, LLC of Paterson, NJ, the walls are defined by natural cleft stone, and the buildings are sunk into the land adjacent to the lake. Also, the buildings are rectangular masses with “sharp” corners, while the foundation is a large-sized oval and the battered wall is a semi-circle.
“The ashlar stone walls needed to show a ‘lineal’ pattern,” said Torres. “Therefore, the various sizes of the stone units had to be produced with a specific ratio between height and length. Each stone had to be placed such that the more even of two horizontal front-facing edges will be at the top and the less regular edge would always be at the bottom. For stone that has a split-face front and back, we used a combination of convex and concave faces so that as close to half of the front-facing stone as possible is concave.
“The canopy columns were sawn finish with no bevel or arris of any kind,” Torres continued. “The joints were sealed using caulking and treated in such a way that it blends the finish of the stone.”
While the installation went well, there were a few difficulties that occurred such as all the stone panels taller than 9 inches needed to be sawn rather than split at the back because of splitting height to thickness ratio limitations and the side edges of the coping and the stone panels for the interior face of the battered wall needed to be radial, face and back, and follow the slope of the wall, according to the installer. “After producing the stone shop tickets using the AutoCAD program, the first set of panels couldn’t be produced accurately,” he said. “During installation, we noticed about a 3/8-inch lip between the pieces. This problem was more predominant for the 4- and 5-foot-long panels. Due to the strict completion dates, we didn’t have the opportunity to return the panels to the factory in Canada to rectify the radius. Therefore, we addressed the issue onsite, grinding the edges of the stones, providing the proper radius and finally flaming the panels to match the original factory finish. The remedial work done is imperceptible.”
Besides being aesthetically pleasing, the living roof absorbs rainwater, provides insulation, creates a habitat for wildlife and has earned LEED Silver certification for the building. It’s also a project Polycor is very proud of. “We feel it gave us the possibility to contribute directly in the neighborhood development of Brooklyn,” said Vega. “Those who were familiar with the park before the restoration – including the two phases of Lakeshore giving the lake its original place in the park – will definitely appreciate the extensive improvement accomplished in the past few years.”
The architect for the project was first selected in August of 2005, followed by a design period from January 2006 to January 2011 (the design period included three different design schemes, due to changes in leadership, funding and program). Construction ran from February 2011 to December 2013 before it was finally opened in December of 2013. Since then, the reaction to the park has been very positive, including receiving a 2015 AIA National Honor Award.
“The venue has been a success on many levels: establishing its location in the long neglected southeast corner of Prospect Park as a destination for not only the nearby neighborhoods like Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Park Slope and Windsor Terrace, but the rest of Brooklyn and Manhattan,” said Kim. “Its popularity has benefited the Prospect Park Alliance – the non-profit organization that operates and maintains the park – financially while attending to the recreational needs of the various recreational and advocacy groups that the facility and surrounding landscape reconstruction have served: cyclists, equestrians, skaters including curling groups and hockey leagues, and roller skaters.”
LeFrak Center at Lakeside
Prospect Park, Brooklyn, NY
Architect: Tod Williams, Billie Tsien Architects, New York, NY
General Contractor: FJ Sciame Construction Co. Inc., New York, NY
Stone Supplier: Polycor, Quebec City, Quebec, Canada (granite); Lilac Quarries, Gilbertsville, NY (Bluestone)
Stone Installer: Wilkstone LLC, Paterson, NJ; Beradi Stone Setting Inc., White Plains, NY