Skip to main content

New Yorker critic: Gehry's "talents hardly seem suited" to AY challenge

New Yorker architecture critic Paul Goldberger weighs in this week on two Frank Gehry projects in New York, in an article headlined GEHRY-RIGGED: Two New York projects show how to use Frank Gehry and how not to.

Goldberger likes Gehry's InterActive Corp. building in Chelsea, but he finds the mass and superblocks of Atlantic Yards inappropriate for the site, and he points out what critics charge and even some supporters acknowledge: the arena is the hook for the larger development.

Goldberger writes:
It’s a shame that this quality hasn’t been more in evidence in Gehry’s other New York venture, the Atlantic Yards development, in Brooklyn. This cluster of skyscrapers extending twenty-two acres around a new basketball arena for the Nets is the biggest project he has ever undertaken, and it has been the subject of bitter controversy for months. (Last month, following recommendations from the City Planning Commission, the plans were scaled back by eight per cent, but the project remains enormous.)

Opponents complain that the sixteen residential towers will create a wall between the neighborhoods of Fort Greene and Prospect Heights. So far, they have cast the developer, Bruce Ratner, as the villain, suggesting that he is cynically using Gehry’s name to add prestige to an ill-conceived scheme. In an open letter to Gehry published in Slate, the novelist Jonathan Lethem wrote, “I’ve been struggling to understand how someone of your sensibilities can have drifted into such an unfortunate alliance, with such potentially disastrous results.”

Yet Gehry’s design is a large part of the problem. He told me that he accepted the job in part because he has never taken on this kind of urban challenge, but his talents hardly seem suited to it. Gehry’s great success has come from architectural jewels that sparkle against the background of the rest of a city—the Bilbao Guggenheim; the Walt Disney Concert Hall, in Los Angeles. In Brooklyn, the task is to create a coherent cityscape that relates comfortably to its surroundings. Gehry tried to do this by grouping some understated towers around a few very elaborate ones. (The six-hundred-and-twenty-foot-high main tower, foolishly named Miss Brooklyn, is full of self-conscious Gehryisms.) Rather than giving a sense of foreground and background, the juxtaposition of plain and fancy just looks like a few Gehrys bought for full price next to several bought at discount.

Gehry has told me that he sees the project as a kind of homage to the old Manhattan sky line, but the romance of that vista is a happy accident of diverse buildings in a tight web of streets. Atlantic Yards, by contrast, involves eliminating streets, and has the look more of a single structure spanning multiple blocks than of a townscape that has grown organically. Gehry perhaps conceived of the whole thing as one huge object that could play off against the city—a gigantic version of one of his jewels. The problem with trying to do Bilbao on this scale is that it ceases to be an eccentric counterpoint to the context. It is the context.

Buried within the construction is the building that was the catalyst for the entire project—an arena for the Nets, the basketball team purchased by Ratner and which he intends to move from New Jersey to Brooklyn. The arena is the best part of Gehry’s plan. Its glass-enclosed spaces bring vibrancy to the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues, and it will contain lots of public areas, not just for spectators but for anyone passing through. Such exclamation points in a cityscape are something Gehry knows how to create better than anyone. That’s what Diller asked him to do, and it worked.

Ratner’s exclamation point, however, unlike Diller’s, can’t pay for itself, and Ratner is using it as a loss leader to justify an enormous real-estate venture. Although the site cries out for development, neither Ratner nor Gehry has a convincing idea of how this should be done. Ratner seems to have been less interested in using Gehry’s architectural talent to best advantage than in trying to leverage his celebrity to make an unpopular development more palatable. Gehry, for his part, clearly loved the idea of taking on the biggest project in New York. But even the most famous architect in the world has limits.


Urban Room

I'm not sure what Goldberger meant when he said that the arena would "contain lots of public areas." That's apparently a reference to the Urban Room, which would contain ticket windows, a team store, entrances to the hotel, office space, and transit hub, as well as restaurants, cafes, and gathering spaces.

Anne Schwartz in Gotham Gazette summarized the debate:
It is also not clear whether the 10,000-square-foot "Urban Room" in the arena will function as intended. "It is being marketed as the Grand Central for Brooklyn, but it's configured like it's going to be a lobby to the arena," said Goldman. "Will it function as a public space given that?"

"We do hope people use the Urban Room to access activities at the arena," said DePlasco of Forest City Ratner. "But beyond that, we hope that it is a comfortable place to just sit, rest, and watch other people. There will be programming there as well, including music, art displays and other activities."

Comments

  1. It's so curious how America has so few good architects like Frank Gehry. Probably this article from architecture critic Paul Goldberger help to this situation. It is so pity.

    Excuse my English. I'm French

    Best regards

    David Orbach architecte

    www.coste-orbach.fr

    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…

Barclays Center event June 11 to protest plans to expand Israeli draft; questions about logistics

At right is a photo of a poster spotted in Hasidic Williamsburg right. Clearly there's an event scheduled at the Barclays Center aimed at the Haredi Jewish community (strict Orthodox Jews who reject secular culture), but the lack of English text makes it cryptic.

The website Matzav.com explains, Protest Against Israeli Draft of Bnei Yeshiva Rescheduled for Barclays Center:
A large asifa to protest the drafting of bnei yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel into the Israeli army that had been set to take place this month will instead be held on Sunday, 17 Sivan/June 11, at the Barclays Center in Downtown Brooklyn, NY. So attendees at a big gathering will protest an apparent change of policy that will make it much more difficult for traditional Orthodox Jewish students--both Hasidic (who follow a rebbe) and non-Hasidic (who don't)--to get deferments from the draft. Comments on the Yeshiva World website explain some of the debate.

The logistical questions

What's unclear is how large the ev…

Atlanta's Atlantic Yards moves ahead

First mentioned in April, the Atlantic Yards project in Atlanta is moving ahead--and has the potential to nudge Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn further down in Google searches.

According to a 5/30/17 press release, Hines and Invesco Real Estate Announce T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards:
Hines, the international real estate firm, and Invesco Real Estate, a global real estate investment manager, today announced a joint venture on behalf of one of Invesco Real Estate’s institutional clients to develop two progressive office projects in Atlanta totalling 700,000 square feet. T3 West Midtown will be a 200,000-square-foot heavy timber office development and Atlantic Yards will consist of 500,000 square feet of progressive office space in two buildings. Both projects are located on sites within Atlantic Station in the flourishing Midtown submarket.
Hines will work with Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture (HPA) as the design architect for both T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards. DLR Group will be t…

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…