Brooklyn Navy Yard Gates: Ferra Designs

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Designers abstracted photography of manufacturing scenes to create the gate's pattern (Ferra)

The Building 92 museum’s new gates were inspired by a history of manufacturing

Last week, the Brooklyn Navy Yard threw open its doors to the public for the first time in more than two centuries. With the opening of its new BLDG 92, designed by Beyer Blinder Belle in collaboration with workshop/apd, the Yard welcomed community members to the new 24,000-square-foot exhibition space and visitors’ center. From their first view of the building’s south-facing forecourt, visitors will be inspired to learn about the area’s industrial past by an operable gate made by Ferra Designs, an architectural metal fabricator that calls the Navy Yard home.

  • Fabricator Ferra Designs
  • Architects Beyer Blinder Belle and workshop/apd
  • Location Brooklyn, New York
  • Status Complete
  • Materials Steel
  • Process Waterjet cutting

“The philosophy behind the Brooklyn Navy Yards in general is embracing manufacturing and supporting manufacturing,” said Rob Ferraroni, Ferra’s founder. Having worked with workshop in the past, the company was brought in early on to realize the design team’s vision of a steel gate with perforations abstracted from historical images. The idea is an extension of BLDG 92’s solar screen, whose perforated design was taken from a photograph of the 1936 launch of USS Brooklyn from the Brooklyn Navy Yard. (The screen was fabricated and installed by FMB last year.)

After receiving pixelated photo files from workshop/apd, Ferra used SolidWorks to modify the artwork and translate the images into files for the shop’s Flow waterjet cutting equipment. Artwork was scaled to fit each panel, and perforations were considered carefully: “If all of the cutouts were too close the gate would be very flimsy,” said Ferraroni. Artistic considerations aside, the fence must withstand wind loads and other stresses that a street-level structure might face.

The largest panels were larger than Ferra’s 12-foot waterjet bed, so the team developed a technique to cut one side then flip the panel and recalibrate the machine to cut the rest of the pattern seamlessly. The 32-day waterjet cutting process was monitored closely to ensure the steel panel remained flat on the bed—if it were to tilt and collide with the cutting tip, the machine would have to undergo an hours-long recalibration process.

Ferra also built the gate’s custom hardware. Doors are coplanar when closed, but slide open on casters guided by Cor-Ten steel plates set into the courtyard’s pavers. The weathering steel is a nod to another of Ferra’s contributions to the site, a set of custom hull-shaped bike racks that are ready to welcome new visitors as well.

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