Saturday, February 28, 2009

"Little guy" Gehry says Atlantic Yards is "stopped"; what are the implications?

As architect Frank Gehry turns 80, a valedictory interview in his home newspaper, the Los Angeles Times, is headlined Frank Gehry considers an accomplished past and uncertain future. Notably, when it comes to Atlantic Yards, Gehry considers himself "the little guy."

Christopher Hawthorne writes:
Most distressing of all for Gehry, two projects that he saw as capstones to his career, gigantic mixed-use developments on L.A.'s Grand Avenue and at Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards, have both been put on hold.

"I've had a disappointing year, couple of years, with Grand Avenue and Brooklyn," he said in a wide-ranging conversation in his office last week in which he was by turns ruminative, weary and hopeful. "All my life I've wanted to do projects like that, and they never came to me. And then all of a sudden I had two of them. I invested the last five years in them, and they're both stopped. So it leaves a very hollow feeling in your bones."

In response to the global slowdown, Gehry, like many of his peers, has been forced to radically cut his staff, which he said is now half the size it was just a year ago.


What does "stopped" mean?

Unexplained is the meaning of "stopped." Developer Forest City Ratner, of course, is chomping at the bit to break ground on the arena. The major legal cases may be cleared this spring, though appeals are possible, but financing remains uncertain.

Gehry could have easily have said the project is "on hold." So either he was infelicitous in his language or he knows more about the developer's plans than the rest of us.

Alternatively, he could have meant that the project is, for him, "stopped," given that his designs for an arena are undergoing major changes.

Gehry's statements back up (if not completely confirm) the reportage in the Wall Street Journal and New York Daily News that he's laid off his staff working on Atlantic Yards. It's too bad he wasn't asked a specific question.

Who's the little guy?

Hawthorne writes:
And Gehry is clearly stung by the charge that his most mammoth projects -- the Brooklyn development, in particular, which was originally planned to include as many as 16 towers -- have been vehicles for self-aggrandizement forced on unwilling communities. After all, he has long painted himself as a lonely talent pushed to the periphery of the profession in the early decades of his career by myopic developers and less principled colleagues.

In his mind, he doesn't run roughshod over the little guy, as he has been accused of doing by neighborhood activists in Brooklyn. He is the little guy.


Well, that's Gehry's mind. Remember that Gehry said he'd meet with local residents but was never given permission to do so. And that he disparaged local critics by cracking that they'd be "picketing Henry Ford."

DDDB points to Gehry calling the Miss Brooklyn tower "my ego trip" and his relish at the opportunity to "build a whole neighborhood practically from scratch and fit it into an existing fabric and make something special out of it."

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