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Michael Van Valkenburgh believes landscape architecture is “theater for everyday life.” The founder of the eponymous New York- and Cambridge-based firm says this is especially true of Max Family Garden, nestled in the shadows of the Brooklyn Bridge, at Brooklyn Bridge Park. The 8,000-square-foot space provides an intimate backdrop for daily life on a triangle-shaped site occupying the open-air industrial ruins sharing a wall with St. Ann’s Warehouse, a performing-arts venue. The firm chose to plant birch, sassafras, and redbud in a mazelike formation that “won’t grow too tall or make the site feel dwarfed over time,” notes Van Valkenburgh. Though he says the garden was made principally to support activities at the warehouse, including theater and film screenings, he is pleased it has also become a popular setting for family gatherings and photo sessions for wedding parties and quinceañeras. “We hit the right note,” he says—of what makes Brooklyn inclusive, relaxed, and comfortable.

Max Family Garden.

Photo © David Sundberg/Esto, click to enlarge.