Skip to main content

Gehry interviewed by Ouroussoff: signage but not scale

Atlantic Yards project architect Frank Gehry appeared on the Charlie Rose show last night on PBS, in a chummy interview with New York Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff, and it was not as illuminating as when Ouroussoff talked to Rose about Gehry ("he's now getting into a kind of unfamiliar territory'), now when Ouroussoff interviewed Gehry in New York, when the architect seemed unprepared for questions about Atlantic Yards.

Indeed, while Gehry talked mainly about topics other than the Atlantic Yards project, he did manage to repeat some praise for his client, Bruce Ratner, and to discuss plans for signage and design at the Brooklyn Arena, in partnership with a name we'll probably hear much more of: Peter Arnell. (Screenshots right and below from show video.)

Ouroussoff didn't raise any questions about the scale of the project--Gehry told him in January that "it's coming way back" but those words were repudiated when Forest City Ratner announced reductions of only five percent on March 31.

(Was this just the first stage of a Forest City Ratner plan to keep scaling back the plan slightly, to appear to be responding to the community? Did Gehry's handlers insist that he not be pressed about scale? Did Ouroussff not read his own newspaper?)


Ouroussoff asked what it's like working with developers, working on an urban scale, not simply a building, and Gehry went on to explain the arc of his career, how he initially worked with developers, then went solo, until recently,

FG: I guess I became attractive to some developers, recently, and I resisted it at first. For me it's like the people, if I like them--Bruce Ratner is politically my kind of guy, he's a do-gooder, liberal, we can talk, he likes classical music, and he collects art. So he's a guy I can play with.

As noted, Gehry also characterized Ratner as a fellow "liberal, do-gooder" in the 7/25/05 New York Observer; others, like Cooper Union's Fred Siegel, have called Ratner "master of the subsidy."

From Renzo to Frank

NO: You met Bruce Ratner at a competition for our building, the New York Times tower. He ended up hiring Renzo Piano.... He told me not that long ago that's when you guys hit it off. And he had to change his culture too, in a way, because he was working with an architect he wasn't used to working with.

FG: I think the experience with Renzo was good for him. I think he's a guy that really wants to do stuff, and good things. The Renzo experience felt good, and he met me, he felt like he could talk to me. It has been really good.

NO: There has been a process of education on both your parts. In Ratner's case, you've tried to push him into places where he's not used to going.

FG: It's not that I'm trying to push him. He's asking me to do something, and he's very clear that he wants to do something special. He has a pro forma, he has a responsibility--he's a public company, he's got responsibility to stockholders and things like that, so it's got to work, and being a developer, I know very well, it can get precarious, because it shifts, and the economy shifts, and all kinds of shifts can happen. Like if housing--there's a boom now, next week it isn't, and he's building housing, you've got to have staying power, which I think the people I'm working with do that and understand.

(That's probably why Forest City Ratner is also considering a variation that restores office space previously traded for market-rate housing. And that pro forma remains under wraps.)

Dealing with developers

Ouroussoff went on to talk with Gehry about how he studied as an urban planner, "part of a your do-gooder background." The conversation eventually returned to how Gehry maintains his principles when dealing with developers.

NO: How do you keep in that context, when you're dealing with the bottom line, when you're dealing with people who come out of a certain culture, and maybe are just learning to deal with architecs like you, how do you keep that toughness in your work?

FG: I don't know that I can verbalize it. I have a set of criteria I'm sure in my head, but they're not verbal. There's things I like and things I don't like. I'll take directions based on that, but it's intuitive.

NO: You've been collaborating a bit, in Brooklyn and in other projects, with younger guys... you've brought people into the office you haven't worked with, Peter Arnett--

"Peter Arnell," Gehry corrected, and went on to discuss his role working with younger architects from inside and outside his office.

Arnell and the animated arena

NO: How about Peter? What's it like--Peter's in the advertising world, and you've described yourself as computer-illiterate. You guys have been working in a space that's been new for you. Can you talk a little about what you're doing with him in Brooklyn?

FG: Peter Arnell did my first book, many years ago. He studied with Michael Graves, and he has a great background in architectural history, he reads everything, he knows classical music, he's a great photographer, takes wonderful pictures. He's kind of a genius. It's mind-boggling.... I asked Bruce Ratner to meet Peter Arnell. But I didn't know Peter Arnell did what--I knew he did stuff like that--and he's been just great doing the signage, and the wayfinding. But he also has invented things, like the floor of the Nets, floor for the basketball--

NO: which will be completely animated, as well as the--

FG: as well as the ceiling. And what I'm interested in... I did a proposal a few years ago for a Times Square store, for Time-Warner--

NO: The chain-link curtains that started lifting up like the building was undressing.

FG: Like a cuckoo clock, with Time-Warner figures. It's obvious that buildings are becoming billboards, all around the world. And Venturi was right, Learning from Las Vegas, you go to Times Square and it's all there.

NO: But these aren't Venturi's billboards any more.

FG: But how does an architect get ahead of that? How does our profession find out what to do with that idea, which is ubiquitous, coming? You're not going to be able to close that barn door. So how do you deal with that. That's what fascinated me with Arnell's kind of thinking, of how to develop something that connects with the architecture, that makes the architecture better.

NO: Let's be more specific--you're talking about a kind of layering--is it OK to talk about the models that I saw? We're talking about a layering around the exterior, this is around the arena in Brooklyn, it starts to peel apart, where the advertising and the facades of the buildings start to blur.

Note that Ouroussoff has been made privy to designs that the public hasn't seen.

FG: So it's not there sometimes and it's there sometimes. There's a little bit of it, and there's more of it. And it can be used for community issues, as well as advertising. It has a social function, if it's played right, it can be used for art... How do you make that--everybody's getting it, whether they like it or not, it's all over us.

NO: Meaning people will have to live with this, so the question is: what can you turn it into.

FG: If I look at what Peter Arnell and I are doing right now, they're baby steps. I really think we've got to get into the technology and see where really the root of it. Y'know, LED is little tiny things, they sit on black background--it's not pretty yet. How do you turn it into something--that's the trick. And maybe there's something other than LED.

The trick is also whether the signage would cause enough glare to be considered light pollution.

More on Arnell

The only other reference to Arnell in the Atlantic Yards project came in the December 2005 newsletter of the American Institute of Architects New York chapter:
Working with advertising/marketing/design guru Peter Arnell, Gehry is exploring innovative lighting projections on the scoreboard and on the floor, and wants so many things happening visually that the arena feels full but intimate at the same time.

And there's another curious connection between Arnell and the rapper Jay-Z, who's got a high profile among the several shareholders with small stakes in the Nets. A 11/18/03 Ad Age article described how Arnell and his wife sold their apartment in TriBeCa, "after a much-publicized dispute with other tenants in the building who blocked Arnell’s effort to sell the property to rapper and friend Jay-Z."

Comments

  1. I had a dream that the entire project was just a holographic projection and that Gehry stopped claiming that he was a liberal do-godder and actually did some good.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi! I'm the one who is offended because Charlie Gargano made a million bucks from fake anti-terrorism equipment while dead bodies were still being pulled from the rubble of the WTC (Ask me about Eagle Building Technologies - Charlie was a director).

    I have a question about NYC real estate. I was searching the NYC secretary of state corporate database and came across hundreds of not-for-profit entities that have "housing development fund corporation" in their names and they are all in NYC. The address in some cases appear to be private homes.

    Is this some sort of tax scam? Does everyone in NYC incorporate as a housing development fund corp? I'd really, really like to know the answer. If you have any info, could you post it here or email me at mrspanstreppon@hotmail.com? I'd appreciate any help ever so much. And let me know if you need any dirt on Gargano - I have lots of it. I'm also the one who thinks Lawrence, Gargano's son, was doing subcontracting for Ratner.

    mrs p

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Barclays Center/Levy Restaurants hit with suit charging discrimination on disability, race; supervisors said to use vicious slurs, pursue retaliation

The Daily News has an article today, Barclays Center hit with $5M suit claiming discrimination against disabled, while the New York Post headlined its article Barclays Center sued over taunting disabled employees.

While that's part of the lawsuit, more prominent are claims of racial discrimination and retaliation, with black employees claiming repeated abuse by white supervisors, preferential treatment toward Hispanic colleagues, and retaliation in response to complaints.

Two individual supervisors, for example, are charged with  referring to black employees as “black motherfucker,” “dumb black bitch,” “black monkey,” “piece of shit” and “nigger.”

Two have referred to an employee blind in one eye as “cyclops,” and “the one-eyed guy,” and an employee with a nose disorder as “the nose guy.”

There's been no official response yet though arena spokesman Barry Baum told the Daily News they, but take “allegations of this kind very seriously” and have "a zero tolerance policy for…

Behind the "empty railyards": 40 years of ATURA, Baruch's plan, and the city's diffidence

To supporters of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, it's a long-awaited plan for long-overlooked land. "The Atlantic Yards area has been available for any developer in America for over 100 years,” declared Borough President Marty Markowitz at a 5/26/05 City Council hearing.

Charles Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, mused on 11/15/05 to WNYC's Brian Lehrer, “Isn’t it interesting that these railyards have sat for decades and decades and decades, and no one has done a thing about them.” Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco, in a 12/19/04 New York Times article ("In a War of Words, One Has the Power to Wound") described the railyards as "an empty scar dividing the community."

But why exactly has the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Vanderbilt Yard never been developed? Do public officials have some responsibility?

At a hearing yesterday of the Brooklyn Borough Board Atlantic Yards Committee, Kate Suisma…

Forest City acknowledges unspecified delays in Pacific Park, cites $300 million "impairment" in project value; what about affordable housing pledge?

Updated Monday Nov. 7 am: Note follow-up coverage of stock price drop and investor conference call and pending questions.

Pacific Park Brooklyn is seriously delayed, Forest City Realty Trust said yesterday in a news release, which further acknowledged that the project has caused a $300 million impairment, or write-down of the asset, as the expected revenues no longer exceed the carrying cost.

The Cleveland-based developer, parent of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, which is a 30% investor in Pacific Park along with 70% partner/overseer Greenland USA, blamed the "significant impairment" on an oversupply of market-rate apartments, the uncertain fate of the 421-a tax break, and a continued increase in construction costs.

While the delay essentially confirms the obvious, given that two major buildings have not launched despite plans to do so, it raises significant questions about the future of the project, including:
if market-rate construction is delayed, will the affordable h…

Revising official figures, new report reveals Nets averaged just 11,622 home fans last season, Islanders drew 11,200 (and have option to leave in 2018)

The Brooklyn Nets drew an average of only 11,622 fans per home game in their most recent (and lousy) season, more than 23% below the announced official attendance figure, and little more than 65% of the Barclays Center's capacity.

The New York Islanders also drew some 19.4% below announced attendance, or 11,200 fans per home game.

The surprising numbers were disclosed in a consultant's report attached to the Preliminary Official Statement for the refinancing of some $462 million in tax-exempt bonds for the Barclays Center (plus another $20 million in taxable bonds). The refinancing should lower costs to Mikhail Prokhorov, owner of the arena operating company, by and average of $3.4 million a year through 2044 in paying off arena construction.

According to official figures, the Brooklyn Nets attendance averaged 17,187 in the debut season, 2012-13, 17,251 in 2013-14, 17,037 in 2014-15, and 15,125 in the most recent season, 2015-16. For hoops, the arena holds 17,732.

But official…

So, Forest City has some property subject to the future Gowanus rezoning

Writing yesterday, MAP: Who Owns All the Property Along the Gowanus Canal, DNAinfo's Leslie Albrecht lays out the positioning of various real estate players along the Gowanus Canal, a Superfund site:
As the city considers whether to rezone Gowanus and, perhaps, morph the gritty low-rise industrial area into a hot new neighborhood of residential towers (albeit at a fraction of the height of Manhattan's supertall buildings), DNAinfo reviewed property records along the canal to find out who stands to benefit most from the changes.
Investors have poured at least $440 million into buying land on the polluted waterway and more than a third of the properties have changed hands in the past decade, according to an examination of records for the nearly 130 properties along the 1.8-mile canal. While the single largest landowner is developer Property Markets Group, other landowners include Kushner Companies, Alloy Development, Two Trees, and Forest City New York.

Forest City's plans unc…

At 550 Vanderbilt, big chunk of apartments pitched to Chinese buyers as "international units"

One key to sales at the 550 Vanderbilt condo is the connection to China, thanks to Shanghai-based developer Greenland Holdings.

It's the parent of Greenland USA, which as part of Greenland Forest City Partners owns 70% of Pacific Park (except 461 Dean and the arena).

And sales in China may help explain how the developer was able to claim early momentum.
"Since 550 Vanderbilt launched pre-sales in June [2015], more than 80 residences have gone into contract, representing over 30% of the building’s 278 total residences," the developer said in a 9/25/15 press release announcing the opening of a sales gallery in Brooklyn. "The strong response from the marketplace indicates the high level of demand for well-designed new luxury homes in Brooklyn..."

Maybe. Or maybe it just meant a decent initial pipeline to Chinese buyers.

As lawyer Jay Neveloff, who represents Forest City, told the Real Deal in 2015, a project involving a Chinese firm "creates a huge market for…