Skip to main content

Ouroussoff's Gehry defense was more "hero worship" than civic concern

So what exactly did New York Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff mean last Friday when he counted himself among "we" opponents of the Atlantic Yards project?

I observed that "more likely, he’s an opponent of [architect Frank] Gehry’s vision being stymied." Indeed, more of that perspective emerged in a Sunday essay headlined Nice Tower! Who’s Your Architect? that also involves a Gehry project for Forest City Ratner.

Writing about the architect's Beekman Tower in Lower Manhattan, Ouroussoff, with satisfaction recounted how Gehry got over on the big developer:
Some architects were able to work around conventional real estate wisdom by forging exteriors that would impose a specific experience on the interior spaces. By the time the consultants at Forest City Ratner, the developer behind Mr. Gehry’s Beekman building, realized that the wrinkled walls of the architect’s tower would be mirrored inside the apartments, for example, it was too late to change without a costly reworking of the design.


What about interiors?

But Ouroussoff would like to see architects helping transform the interior layouts, and that was not to be:
...Yet neither Mr. Gehry nor [architect Neil] Denari was allowed to tinker with the actual layout of the apartments, which will be the same loftlike interiors that have become as much of an urban cliché as the gated Mediterranean community has in suburbia.


This echoes an exchange during a 1/7/06 Times Talk interview conducted by the critic. Would Ratner let Gehry work on the 'internal social organism' of the project, Ouroussoff wondered: "Will the developer let you play with those things, the way you were able to with your own house?"

"No," Gehry said, citing in-house marketing people and architects at Forest City Ratner. "They do apartment layouts. We tweak them, but we can't really make a big architectural statement... We can influence them, make sure they are in the right places with the right views... but it’s fairly conventional...."

Hero worship

It's a little late for Ouroussoff. Critic Karrie Jacobs, a champion of innovative architecture but an opponent of backroom deals, observed last Friday on her blog:
But the thing that really gets me is the naive hero-worship embedded in Ouroussoff worldview (or should I say weltanshauung?):

"If large-scale development is unavoidable, why not enlist serious talents like Mr. Gehry to come up with an alternative to the bottom-line proposals that have been the accepted norm for decades? Finally a big developer had turned to a legitimate architectural hero for help, rather than the usual corporate hacks."

Finally? Has he not noticed that architectural heroes have become the new corporate hacks?

Comments

  1. Finally!
    Someone who agrees that Mr. Ouroussoff needs to dislodge himself from the collective jocks of Gehry, Koolhaus,Scofidio et al.

    The Bilbao museum was nothing short of mind-blowing, and absolutely necessary for the state of architecture at the time. But gehry has become a caricacature, the scofidio 'folding' building is an iteration of every starry eyed arch students dorm room drawings, and liebskind....don't even get me started on the crystalline wedges manifesting themselves across the world.

    silly rabbit, metaphors are for poems!

    None of this is to say that the more, ahem, expressive architecture is not without its place. the world needs the 'morphosis' firms to push along new agendas and fresh ideas.

    its just that i'm getting sick of every architect in new york being called a hack for practicing in what i call the modern vernacular: skyscrapers that use the site/environment as their muse, and who, having lived in the city for years, understand its layers and love its architecture.

    three cheers for kpf, fox fowle, and beyer blinder belle!

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

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…

Is Barclays Center dumping the Islanders, or are they renegotiating? Evidence varies (bond doc, cash receipts); NHL attendance biggest variable

The Internet has been abuzz since Bloomberg's Scott Soshnick reported 1/30/17, using an overly conclusory headline, that Brooklyn’s Barclays Center Is Dumping the Islanders.

That would end an unusual arrangement in which the arena agrees to pay the team a fixed sum (minus certain expenses), in exchange for keeping tickets, suite, and sponsorship revenue.

The arena would earn more without the hockey team, according to Bloomberg, which cited “a financial projection shared with potential investors showed the Islanders won’t contribute any revenue after the 2018-19 season--a clear signal that the team won’t play there, the people said."

That "signal," however, is hardly definitive, as are the media leaks about a prospective new arena in Queens, as shown in the screenshot below from Newsday. Both sides are surely pushing for advantage, if not bluffing.

Consider: the arena and the Islanders can't even formally begin their opt-out talks until after this season. The disc…

Skanska says it "expected to assemble a properly designed modular building, not engage in an iterative R&D experiment"

On 12/10/16, I noted that FastCo.Design's Prefab's Moment of Reckoning article dialed back the gush on the 461 Dean modular tower compared to the publication's previous coverage.

Still, I noted that the article relied on developer Forest City Ratner and architect SHoP to put the best possible spin on what was clearly a failure. From the article: At the project's outset, it took the factory (managed by Skanska at the time) two to three weeks to build a module. By the end, under FCRC's management, the builders cut that down to six days. "The project took a little longer than expected and cost a little bit more than expected because we started the project with the wrong contractor," [Forest City's Adam] Greene says.Skanska jabs back
Well, Forest City's estranged partner Skanska later weighed in--not sure whether they weren't asked or just missed a deadline--and their article was updated 12/13/16. Here's Skanska's statement, which shows th…

Not just logistics: bypassing Brooklyn for DNC 2016 also saved on optics (role of Russian oligarch, Shanghai government)

Surely the logistical challenges of holding a national presidential nominating convention in Brooklyn were the main (and stated) reasons for the Democratic National Committee's choice of Philadelphia.

And, as I wrote in NY Slant, the huge security cordon in Philadelphia would have been impossible in Brooklyn.

But consider also the optics. As I wrote in my 1/21/15 op-ed in the Times arguing that the choice of Brooklyn was a bad idea:
The arena also raises ethically sticky questions for the Democrats. While the Barclays Center is owned primarily by Forest City Ratner, 45 percent of it is owned by the Russian billionaire Mikhail D. Prokhorov (who also owns 80 percent of the Brooklyn Nets). Mr. Prokhorov has a necessarily cordial relationship with Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin — though he has been critical of Mr. Putin in the past, last year, at the Russian president’s request, he tried to transfer ownership of the Nets to one of his Moscow-based companies. An oligarch-owned a…

Former ESDC CEO Lago returns to NYC to head City Planning Commission

Carl Weisbrod, Mayor Bill de Blasio's City Planning Commission Chairman and Director of the Department of City Planning, is resigning,

And he's being replaced by Marisa Lago, currently a federal official, but who Atlantic Yards-ologists remember as the short-term Empire State Development Corporation CEO who, in an impolitic but candid 2009 statement, acknowledged that the project would take "decades."

Still, Lago not long after that played the good soldier at a May 2009 Senate oversight hearing, justifying changes in the project but claiming the public benefits remained the same.

By returning to City Planning, Lago will join former ESDC General Counsel Anita Laremont, who after retiring from the state (and taking a pension) got the job with the city.

Back at planning

Lago, a lawyer, in 1983 began work as an aide to City Planning Chairman Herb Sturz, and later served as the General Counsel to the president of the NYC Economic Development Corporation, Weisbrod himself.