Skip to main content

Whither the Times's architecture chair? New occupant, art critic Kimmelman, coming, as "conventional wisdom" about Ouroussoff concerns detachment from NYC, notably disembodied AY critiques

In the New York Observer, Jonathan Liu's essay, Times Art Critic Michael Kimmelman to Take Over as Paper’s Architecture Critic, does a good job of sketching the importance of the post, occupied by just four critics since 1963:
The late Herbert Muschamp (he passed away in 2007) took over in the early 1990s...  Muschamp celebrated favorites like the Bilbao Guggenheim with the florid prose and omnivorous interests that might best be called fin de siècle.

Nicolai Ouroussoff, a Muschamp protégé, has held the post since 2004. He announced his resignation June 6. A month later, The Times named his replacement, Michael Kimmelman, the paper’s chief art critic, who will be returning to New York from four years in Europe. Unlike his predecessors, Mr. Kimmelman, who takes the reins at the end of this month, doesn’t have formal training in architecture, or much of a track record as an architectural critic. He will continue to cover art...
“[Kimmelman’s] profiles of architects have been very good, but they aren’t criticism." [said the critic and historian Alexandra Lange] "But his hiring is insulting for the sense one has that The Times doesn’t think it is worth spending a whole salary on an architecture critic...”
Why it matters, and why AY matters

Liu writes:
For Ms. Lange, “the power of the Times critic job is in the fact that their reviews may be the only architecture criticism many people read. This is still true.” Yet when future generations consider the Ouroussoff Era, the defining text—assuming they still use Google—may be Alexandra Lange’s.
He refers to her "devastating takedown," headlined “Why Nicolai Ouroussoff Is Not Good Enough,” in the February 2010 Design Observer, a dissent that "has become more like conventional wisdom."

And what was the centerpiece of Lange's critique? As she wrote (and I excerpted):
Exhibits A and B in this critique are Ouroussoff’s reviews of the massive Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn. It was unclear from his first review whether Ouroussoff had ever been to Brooklyn, so grateful did he think we should be for the services of (Los Angeles) architect Frank Gehry.

When did the Times critic leave Brooklyn?

Liu writes:
For Alexandra Lange and [The Architect's Newspaper's] Julie Iovine, the deterritorialization of the Times architecture critic began immediately after the departure of Ms. Huxtable, with her indomitable knowledge of zoning laws, block-level history and City Council minutiae.

Naturally, [Huxtable's successor] Mr. [Paul] Goldberger sets it later: “I think in Ada Louise’s time, and I hope in my time, the person in that job was a critical force—a very central presence in the dialogue about the future of New York. That’s less true today. … Herbert Muschamp and Nicolai Ouroussoff were both somewhat less interested in that and somewhat more interested in architecture as an object and artifact. … Whatever the reason, it is a very real loss.”

His successors, Ms. Goldberger noted, may have simply followed the general trend at The Times—that to survive, it would have to be a national, or international, paper.
Could it have been Davidson?

Chimes in the Observer's Matt Chaban, in If You’re Looking for an Architecture Critic, Try Justin Davidson:
If you want to find that critic, one who cares about “indomitable knowledge of zoning laws, block-level history and City Council minutiae,” as Mr. Liu puts the qualifications of the Times‘ first critic Ada Louis Huxtable, turn not to the paper of record but New York magazine. That is where Justin Davidson has been opining in Ms. Huxtable’s persnickety tradition for four years now.
For the record, in a scathing 9/13/09 essay headlined Basket Case: Bruce Ratner SHoPs for respectability., Davidson wrote:
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.

..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.
I had a few corrective comments on Davidson's essay.

Comments

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…

At 550 Vanderbilt, big chunk of apartments pitched to Chinese buyers as "international units"

One key to sales at the 550 Vanderbilt condo is the connection to China, thanks to Shanghai-based developer Greenland Holdings.

It's the parent of Greenland USA, which as part of Greenland Forest City Partners owns 70% of Pacific Park (except 461 Dean and the arena).

And sales in China may help explain how the developer was able to claim early momentum.
"Since 550 Vanderbilt launched pre-sales in June [2015], more than 80 residences have gone into contract, representing over 30% of the building’s 278 total residences," the developer said in a 9/25/15 press release announcing the opening of a sales gallery in Brooklyn. "The strong response from the marketplace indicates the high level of demand for well-designed new luxury homes in Brooklyn..."

Maybe. Or maybe it just meant a decent initial pipeline to Chinese buyers.

As lawyer Jay Neveloff, who represents Forest City, told the Real Deal in 2015, a project involving a Chinese firm "creates a huge market for…

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…