Sunday, December 10, 2006

A frustrated sigh from Gehry on the signage issue

There's another reason to echo the concerns raised Tuesday that 150-high signs on the proposed Atlantic Yards Urban Room might turn Brooklyn's busiest intersection into Times Square.

Frank Gehry is frustrated, according to an interview he gave Advertising Age published in September.

The original tune

In April, in an interview with New York Times critic Nicolai Ouroussoff on the Charlie Rose show, Gehry sounded confident that he and branding expert Peter Arnell could craft creative signage that could be used for advertising, community issues, and art.

"This would not be Times Square," he told the Daily News in May.

(Above right, a graphic by BrooklynSpeaks adapted from two separate renderings in the Atlantic Yards Final Environmental Impact Statement. Note that the perspective is not from ground level.)

Evolving signage

The Gehry/Arnell team got to articulate their philosophy in a 9/11/06 Advertising Age article (subscribers only) headlined "The true brand architects; Frank Gehry and Peter Arnell have long professed that a marketer's building should also be its best billboard. Corporate America might finally be ready to listen."

The article tracks innovations in signage, noting the new roles for architects:
Meanwhile, American corporations, perplexed by a rapidly changing media environment, are looking for ways-besides the increasingly ignorable 30-second spot-to engage consumers with their messages. Architecture and design, with its power to turn an assemblage of building materials into a storytelling experience not that different from brand-building, has become one of the most powerful options available to them.


Enter Gehry

Architects like Gehry have entered the picture. "Building facades are becoming billboards," Gehry said, citing the "inevitable" electronics in the facade. But how, Gehry asked, "do you do that with dignity and maintain the character called architecture?"

Atlantic Yards blues

Citing Arnell and Gehry, the article continues:
The pair can't yet point to actual work that exemplifies their thinking, save for mention of an ongoing ``competition.'' But the Gehry- designed project that lies just below many of these ideas is the $3.5 billion Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn, N.Y., a 22-acre project that includes a sports arena, both residential and office buildings, and a hotel. Because the project will significantly alter the physical, economic and cultural shape of Brooklyn, a radically diverse and quickly changing New York City borough that prides itself on organically grown neighborhoods, Atlantic Yards has been intensely controversial.

The key to making the development work will be respect for the context. Mr. Gehry, who was born in the borough, has designed the plans with traditional materials, brick and stone, in mind. The opportunity for interactive architecture that's tailored to the neighborhood and can be synced to its rhythm is obvious. Imagine if the seizure-inducing flash of Times Square could be shut down after hours.

When asked if the Brooklyn project will embody any of this thinking, Mr. Gehry only offered a long sigh and said, ''We don't know yet.''


We don't know either.

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