Every morning as we walk to our studio, we quietly slip back in time. Far below rusted cranes and faded concrete balconies, moss-covered train tracks stretch across the vast expanse of the Brooklyn Army Terminal. This was once the world’s largest concrete structure, the place where millions of American troops left these shores to fight in foreign wars. Later abandoned and then brought back to life, this place we call home provides sheer inspiration in shaping our identity as a new American brand.
The design of this 8-story building is functional yet dramatic. Completed in 1919, architect Cass Gilbert engineered this four million square-foot warehouse with the singular goal of efficiently dispatching military supplies and personnel. The scale of operations was unprecedented. More than 3 million troops and 37 million tons of supplies were eventually shipped to army outposts around the world.
The most magnificent features are the steel-and-glass-skylight that traverses the 950-foot-long building and the rows of concrete balconies that cascade up the sides of the walls. When military trains pulled into the building, huge five-ton cranes would slide from one end of the hall to the other to unload supplies directly onto the balconies, sorted by the country of destination.
Despite its massive logistic and storage feats, the military facility gradually fell into decay through the 1960s and 70s as the world moved on to other modes of transportation. In 1981, the building began a new chapter when New York City took over its ownership. Two decades later, when renovations were completed, 2.6 million square feet was made available for commercial use.
BAT has evolved into an industrial complex with scores of tenants ranging from furniture makers to art studios, fashion distributors to medical researchers.
And every morning, when we turn the lights on and warm up the machinery, we are reminded of the building’s storied past and its founding spirit of innovation and grand design.
BKLYN Army Terminal website