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In the Real Deal, architecture critic says meh on prefab: "perhaps not better [than Gehry design]... surely not worse"

In the Real Deal, critic James Gardner asks Atlantic Yards: Can prefab be fabulous? Will the prefab tower at Atlantic Yards look like real architecture, or will it be Lego-like? and comes down toward the latter.

What he doesn't grapple with is whether, in fact, the first tower, B2 (Building 2, not “Barclays Two,” as he writes) would be prefab. It's still in question.

The design and the guidelines

Gardner writes:
The building’s design was in no small degree determined by the guidelines established by the Empire State Development Corporation, the state entity backing the project, which required a complicated series of setbacks.
The design guidelines, actually, were written by Frank Gehry's office.

Gardner writes:
To judge from the renderings, the stiffly geometric results, with their shifting, syncopated planes, recall the same Deconstructivist aesthetic that inspired a number of buildings on West 42nd Street, among them the Condé Nast building at 4 Times Square and the Reuters building at 3 Times Square — both designed by Fox and Fowle.

Perhaps feeling that the pared-down geometry of the structure needed some enhancement, the architects have emphasized the semi-autonomy of each zone by casting it in a different color. In any case, its severe geometry doesn’t look as though, when completed, it will work well with the demonstrative curves of the Barclays arena itself.
The aesthetics

Gardner offers a take rather different than that of the more enthusiastic New York magazine critic Justin Davidson, writing:
Aesthetically, the great question surrounding B2 is whether, when completed, it will look like real architecture, or like something that’s just rolled out of one of the recently unveiled 3-D printers.

Will this development make it possible for good architecture to be produced at bargain-basement prices — or will it prove to be the greatest gift of technology to fans of so-called value engineering? Even more than lackluster design, value engineering is the besetting sin of architecture in the five boroughs, and it produces that sinking feeling that corners were cut, and the cheapest materials were used, to save the most money.

Yet, if anything, New York probably needs its buildings to be more expensive rather than less.

...Surely the project revealed by SHoP looks, from the initial renderings, to be far duller and more conventional — in purely formal terms — than what Gehry had proposed. However, Gehry’s project was overrated, for all the usual mid-cult reasons — adulation of fame and the tendency to associate newness with importance — attendant upon the labors of starchitects. And B2, though perhaps not better, is surely not worse.
Maybe New York needs more expensive buildings. But what Ratner must figure out is how to pay for the buildings he promised, and to make a profit.

Hence the venture into prefab--or the threat of prefab to cudgel the unions.

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