Wednesday, July 04, 2007

In profile of Olin, hints that the AY open space design is changing

A very interesting profile, headlined Mr. Olin’s Neighborhood, of Atlantic Yards landscape architect Laurie Olin, who teaches at the University of Pennsylvania, appears in the July/August issue of the Penn Gazette.

One intriguing excerpt:
(A recent non-disclosure agreement between his company and the Olin Partnership prevents the display of site plans and drawings in this story.)

Given that developer Forest City Ratner has long distributed an image gallery (example at right) via the Pressroom page of AtlanticYards.com, that's a curious request. I think it's safe to assume that the design is changing.

It remains a question, however, whether the changes will sufficiently respond to criticisms that the open space promises to be more private backyard than a public park. Among those delivering such criticisms areBrooklynSpeaks and Ron Shiffman of the Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn advisory board, who's quoted in the article.

Closer to message

Unlike in his February interview in the New York Observer, Olin does not go off-message to repeat his predictions that Frank Gehry would not design all of the Atlantic Yards project, the market for condos is soft, and the project could take 20 years.

He does say one somewhat critical thing, calling Forest City Ratner's past projects "not very good, and are terrible.”

But he does make a fundamental point about grappling with density:
“Landscape architects have to help people come to terms with density and living closer together,” he declares. “It’s the only way to save our agricultural lands and wild lands and to stop the sprawl and spread of cities needlessly.” His voice hits a note somewhere between melancholy and urgency as he reaches his fundamental concern: “The fear of density has driven Americans into destroying so much of what they value.”

There's nothing wrong with density; the question is how much--as in the February interview, he doesn't grapple with the "extreme density" of Atlantic Yards--and who decides.

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