Wednesday, March 10, 2010

An about-face from Ratner: after wanting Gehry to design all AY buildings, now he's said to seek different architects for each one

Eminent architect David Childs--who may work on Atlantic Yards--is another enthusiast for developer Bruce Ratner, telling the Brooklyn Paper:
“Bruce wants to bring in different architects, good architects, to do each of the residential buildings,” Childs said. “That’s something I’d be very excited about. Talking to Bruce, it’s clear that he wants to do this right. He really does.”
However, Childs is being a bit ahistorical, since "do[ing] this right" used to involve one architect for all buildings.

What Gehry said

Frank Gehry, then the architect for Atlantic Yards, said on 10/31/05 that developer Forest City Ratner wouldn't let him bring in other architects:
The struggle is, you end up with sort of a pseudo-19th century scheme—how do you take that into the 21st century, what makes it different, how do you make a complex that doesn’t look like a project even though one architect’s doing it? Normally I would’ve brought in five other architects, but one of the requirements of this client is that I do it.
On 1/7/06, Gehry said:
There are some 20 buildings to be built, and the client insisted that I do them all. When he came to me, he said, 'I know you're going to try and bring all your friends in to do all the buildings, cause that's a cop-out.'... And he didn't want me to do that, he wanted me to really solve the problem, and put me on the hot seat."
The project would involve an arena and 16 towers. It wasn't clear if Gehry was simply being vague, or referring to plans to build a new development complex, which could include new towers, on the site of Ratner’s Atlantic Center mall.

Gehry also said in a 2005 interview that appeared last year:
"He worked with many good architects in attempts to raise the bar for developers, but his parent company’s DNA is a little dicey. I kid him and say, 'The DNA is going to be counter to it.'"
An influential architect

Childs' firm, Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill, may be in the running for an AY tower, according to the Brooklyn Paper, which reported that he approved of the arena redesign:
“It’s a good-looking design,” said Childs, who specifically cited the building’s “industrial” outer membrane.
Critics Francis Morrone and Paul Goldberger last September slammed Borough President Marty Markowitz for suggesting that the building invoked Brooklyn's industrial heritage.

Gilmartin on architects, MAS

Forest City Ratner Executive VP MaryAnne Gilmartin told the Brooklyn Paper that, while FCR had talked to Childs, it was too soon to speculate on who might work on the project. The Paper reported:
“This is about finding the right architects for the challenge,” she said. “There are many architects who could create a beautiful design, but this isn’t only about design. One has to add in the challenge of building a high-rise structure with union labor and an affordable housing component. Atlantic Yards is about cracking the code on this kind of challenge.”

Gilmartin said she was gratified by Childs’s kind words, considering that he is chairman of the Municipal Art Society, a design watchdog group that has a faction that is opposed to Atlantic Yards.
MAS position

The Municipal Art Society (MAS) doesn't have a faction opposed to the project; rather, as it spearheaded BrooklynSpeaks, it has warned of serious design problems in the project, such as superblocks, and since suggested the Atlantic Lots scenario of indefinite interim surface parking.

Then again, when members of BrooklynSpeaks finally went to court last year, MAS was not part of the case. An MAS spokeswoman said:
Without commenting on the recent SEIS lawsuit, MAS maintains the same position it had when Brooklyn Speaks was founded: we do not believe that litigation is the best way to improve the project. Because Brooklyn Speaks was so closely associated with the litigation brought by certain of its member organizations, we felt it was inappropriate to remain a member of the coalition.

Through ongoing conversations with ESDC and Forest City Ratner Companies MAS continues to advocate for implementation of the design principles we articulated, with Brooklyn Speaks, when the project was in its nascent stage. We are also continuing to work towards a governance structure that will fully engage local residents and the community.

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