Justin Davidson writes:
In an attempt to save his Atlantic Yards project from ignominy and insolvency, the developer Bruce Ratner has trotted out another fancy fantasy of the Barclays Center, the Brooklyn Nets’ alleged future home. The latest design, by the joined forces of SHoP Architects and Ellerbe Becket, is much handsomer than the quickie renderings Ratner floated in June after dumping Frank Gehry for being too expensive. But comparing fictional arenas is beside the point by now. Atlantic Yards is too far gone to be rescued by a nice façade.
When Ratner first unveiled the Atlantic Yards project in 2003, it was to be a complex on a virtually Vatican scale, with office towers, apartment buildings, and public spaces springing from an arena—all of it designed by Gehry. Six years later, we’re left with a possible basketball court in a prairie of blight. Profound urbanistic issues—how a diffuse borough as populous as Houston would reshape itself around a new high-rise mini-metropolis, created by fiat and designed by a single architect—have given way to bickering over how to decorate a shed. SHoP’s answer to this pointless question is a clever one: Wrap it in steel basketry, evoking the photogenic “bird’s nest” stadium that Herzog & de Meuron bestowed on Beijing. It worked for China, but in Brooklyn, the bird’s nest is just another way to dress up a turkey.
To clarify, the 2003 plan for the arena block consisted of four office towers. Only later were they converted into (mostly) housing and a tower across the street at Site 5 was added.
I don't think Brooklyn was ever going to reshape itself around this new mini-metropolis--it was going to be a housing complex with an arena attached.
But Davidson nails it when he points out that Atlantic Yards is, as of now, almost completely about a basketball arena.
Davidson pins responsibility on the architects, a responsibility that Gehry was unwilling to shoulder:
SHoP is a fine firm that has done excellent work....
And yet: SHoP has hocked its reputation for the sake of a PR stratagem that seems unlikely to end in triumph. Pasquarelli is letting his firm be used to gussy up a degraded project with architectural flimflam.
And DDDB asks the architects to reconsider.