The architects covered the arena with a bands of swooping pre-rusted steel and glass, aiming to emphasize the horizontality of the building. It's sure not surrounded by the four towers initially planned, essentially burying and blocking the arena.
But consider some unvarnished reaction from newbies.
Wall Street Journal columnist Simon Constable, 9/7/12 hosted a video segment on the progress of "big infrastructure projects," though I'd say Atlantic Yards is less the latter than a "big real estate project."
Constable says, early in the video above, "This is the arena, the Barclays arena in Brooklyn, I've actually passed by it, it is enormous...." His plummy British accent makes him sound that much more authoritative.
"I was almost in shock"
Or take Nets fan Jonah Mars, writing 8/29/12 for From Russia With Dunk:
Once I found my way out of the station and saw the Barclays Center, I was almost in shock. I knew it was going to be a very large structure, but it looks even bigger compared to the size of the buildings around it. Aside from the Barclays Center, it looks like any other residential neighborhood in Brooklyn. You can walk two blocks in any direction and not know that you were close to an 18,000 seat arena. I circled the arena once, but was obviously unable to get inside the construction area to get a look at the inside of the arena. When you see the Barclays Center for the first time, you will know what I mean when I say that I was surprised at how big it was.Actually, if you come from the malls on the north side of the arena along Atlantic Avenue, the shock is far less, since those are big buildings on superblocks, as well.
But these examples suggest that the efforts to cut down the impact of the building only go so far.
They also suggest that seeing the building in person is necessary; the deceptive, self-serving renderings produced by the facade architect, SHoP, are no substitute.