Where an easy-to-miss gap in a concrete berm used to mark the entrance to the New York Botanical Garden, the $21 million, 3 1/2-acre Leon Levy Visitors Center has alighted. The roofs of its four Hugh Hardy- designed stone, steel, and glass pavilions—for ticket booths, an orientation facility, a gift shop, and a café—are shaped like gull wings. Scattered asymmetrically around an outdoor plaza and never taller than 16 feet high, the buildings are secondary to the adjacent groves of flowering cherries and century-old pines. (Before construction began 18 months ago, in fact, plant life on-site was electronically mapped to ensure that no roots would be disturbed.) Windows stretch from rough-cut bluestone foundations to the Douglas fir ceiling beams, so visitors are always aware of their natural surroundings, whether they're browsing through body oils and out-of-print horticultural books or watching computer screens flash the latest news of what's in bloom. Bronx River Pkwy. at Fordham Rd., Bronx, N.Y.; 718/817-8700; www.nybg.org.
—Eve M. Kahn
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