Saturday, May 23, 2009

Brooklyn Exchanges, an exhibit on AY and more, is well worth a look

Probably the single most compelling aspect of the ambitious, absorbing, and flawed Brooklyn Exchanges exhibition, produced by Pratt Institute architecture and planning students, is the up-close view of Guy Ambrosino's sculpture What Was (right), scavenged metal from the Ward Bakery turned into art, and previously shown behind glass.

(Photos by Steve Soblick/NoLandGrab)

The exhibit, which focuses on Vanderbilt/Atlantic Yards, the Fulton Mall, and the BAM Cultural District, continues through June 1 at Metropolitan Exchange, 33 Flatbush Avenue (at Livingston), and is open Wednesday-Saturday 12-6 p.m. 

When I stopped by yesterday afternoon, the gallery represented a respite from some horrific traffic on Flatbush.

History and context

Particularly valuable is a historic timeline of Brooklyn--it's best to enter the gallery, go past the Atlantic Yards images, and walk counterclockwise to start with the timeline.

In each of the three major sections of the exhibition, the renderings of planned developments (e.g., CityPoint, the Irondale Theater at Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church), several of which are on hold, are juxtaposed with current views of the sites as well as historical photos. 

Especially valuable are views of the theaters that once occupied the area near BAM. There's also an effort, with variable success, to intersperse text from interviews with residents and other interested parties.

The AY section

The segment of the show devoted the Vanderbilt/Atlantic Yards gives attention to the alternative UNITY plan, as well as interviews with photographer Tracy Collins (whose photos offer perspective on the AY footprint), and Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn legal chair Candace Carponter. (No, there are no interviews with plan boosters.)

There's one intriguing image of a road not taken, the 1980s plan for the land that later became the Atlantic Terminal and Atlantic Center malls but was stymied by community opposition and economic hard times.

The segment is diminished somewhat, however, by a not-so-informative map (center of photo) and, oddly enough, a rendering (top left of photo) identified as the AY plan that actually comes from the Atlantic Lots scenario produced by the Municipal Art Society.

Looking forward

Around the room are interspersed "Precedents for the Future," a selection of developments around the world that could inform development in Brooklyn.

The concept seems a bit obscure in places--it's not clear to me how the high-density housing pictured applied to Brooklyn--but can provoke thought: there's a museum in Sao Paolo that straddles a street; if we could get past the security implications--and I'm not sure we could, since that precluded an arena bridging Atlantic Avenue--that kind of design has potential.

At the least it could make Flatbush Avenue less forbidding at rush hour.

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