An innovator in the performing arts and longtime Brooklyn fixture, St. Ann’s Warehouse hired MVVA to design a public garden adjoining their first permanent home, just steps from the Brooklyn Bridge overpass. The 8,000-square foot Max Family Garden occupies an open-air remnant of the historic Tobacco Warehouse building, connected on one side to Marvel Architects’ award-winning 2015 theater building. Built to be part of Brooklyn Bridge Park, the garden provides a place of respite between the dense and rapidly growing DUMBO neighborhood and the sweeping East River waterfront.
Faced with the dominating geometry of the existing triangular brick walls, the garden is laid out as an animated field, rather than a strict arrangement of paths. Clay brick pavers break formation and scatter at the edges of plant beds, inviting creeping perennials to blur the line between planting and paving. Locally salvaged fragments of bluestone sidewalk break the ground plane as stacked seating elements, adding to the narrative of a found, evolving condition. With such a powerful urban context, the canopy layer required careful consideration; small to medium height trees strategically frame key views of the bridge pier overhead, while providing a balance of transparency and enclosure. Twenty-four plant species selected for their adaptability to the site’s distinct conditions—including the probability of flood events—create a continuous succession of seasonal activity.
First four photographs by David Sundberg/Esto