Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Ratner's Atlantic Center, Site V gain attention as "worst buildings"

Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Center Mall made WNYC listeners' 11-building list of the city's worst buildings. Guest expert and New York Times columnist Christopher Gray's list, by contrast, was limited to Manhattan--and he said he didn't agree with listener choices of buildings by name architects.

[Updated/corrected] Note that Atlantic Center, and its sibling, the Shops at Site V across Flatbush Avenue, were never aimed to be great work. Indeed, during the episode yesterday, host Leonard Lopate led off by disparaging the bunker-like P.C. Richard store, which shares Site V with Modell's.

Lopate noted that some people criticize ambitious but failed works by major architects, while "there are other people like me that think that the P.C. Richard's store on Atlantic Avenue and Flatbush has to be the worst thing."... Whoever did the P.C. Richard should have been designing army barracks."

The buildings at Site V, clearly built by Forest City Ratner as short-term structures on urban renewal land, are scheduled to be demolished for the Atlantic Yards project. A 400-foot building was initially planned; now, a 250-foot building would occupy the site, nonetheless looming over the adjacent Brooklyn Bear's Garden and the row houses of adjacent Pacific Street.

The Atlantic Center

At about 20:00 into the show, a listener named Dan nominated the Atlantic Center. Lopate pointed out that it was "all of a piece" with the P.C. Richard building previously mentioned.

"It's quite large, it's in two sections," Dan continued, melding Atlantic Center (1996) with its linked neighbor, Atlantic Terminal (2004). Actually, they are now both known under the Atlantic Terminal rubric. "It just feels so out of character in the neighborhood," he said, spulating that "it was only meant to be just temporary."

Gray declared the building--actually Atlantic Terminal--unsuccessful, citing its "nominally classical facade" of red brick.

Lopate said that "a lot of people in the neighborhood felt it was an insult"--it wasn't clear what "it" was--and went on to ask about Atlantic Yards.

Dan said it was "really hard to say," that the project would be "enormous" and he had thought of nominating it, but felt that was inappropriate because it hadn't been built.

Lopate asked Gray about Atlantic Yards, who passed, stating, "I have my hands full looking back."

Lopate mused, "But that area really has not been treated well. A lot of people don't know what to think about neighborhoods in transition."

Gray responded, "There is so much automobile traffic there it creates a very unfriendly human environment."

Despite the criticism of Atlantic Center, there are no plans to demolish it; rather, Forest City Ratner plans new towers at the site.

On Gehry

"Frank Gehry's buildings... really express the human touch," Gray noted at one point, saying they look machine-made but are hand-crafted.

Maybe. In the comments, Park Slope poet Leon Freilich even nominated the unbuilt Atlantic Yards:
RATNER, WHERE'S THY STING? HERE.
The prize must go to Atlantic Yards,
Built over unused railroad tracks,
A monument to private greed
And a burden on taxpayers' backs.

1 comment:

  1. Regarding whether Gehry buildings "really express the human touch" there are comments on the WNYC web sites related to the competition expressing that the opposite is the problem. Comments from two contributors point out that the doors in Gehry’s West Side Dirty Iceberg building are inept and don’t do a good job toward relating the building to human beings or human scale.

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