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Barclays Center architects on WNYC: "Any time you push the boundaries... you expect to get a little friction"

WNYC's The Brian Lehrer Show today offered Barclays Center Architects:
The new Nets arena in Brooklyn is drawing a range of reviews. Architects Gregg Pasquarelli and Chris Sharples of SHoP discuss their design of the Barclays Center and how it fared on its first weekend open for business.
"Let's keep our conversation to the arena's design," Lehrer said, and callers did so, though commenters on the web site added extensive (and negative) comments about the overall project.

Callers, however, were mixed, with one--surely warming the architects' heart--saying he opposed the project but found himself liking the building.

What's the metaphor?

Lehrer, noting that people have linked the arena to a whale, or a George Foreman Grill, asked what they thought.

"I think we like "the clam, the really angry clam," Sharples responded.

"You have to think about how you break down the scale," Pasquarelli elaborated. "We're excited it's a cutting edge piece of architecture that's getting people talking about buildings." (This sounded like a bit of a mantra.)

Competing reviews

Lehrer cited Alexandra Lange's New Yorker review that called the arena "an alien presence" and Justin Davidson's New York magazine review that said "the arena lies relatively low on the skyline." How to  explain that?

"Any time you push the boundaries... you expect to get a little friction," Pasquarelli responded, "and that's exciting. We love the fact that the building can be read in multiple ways."

Rust = neglect?

The first caller said he didn't mind the building's size and color, but suggested the rust evokes decay and neglect."

"We really saw this building--it had to have some attitude," Sharples said. "We really believe it had to be made out of a natural material, something that would patina... I mean, Brooklyn has attitude, it built battleships and aircraft carriers... it was a manufacturing town... we feel this building sort of responds to the history, and also looks toward the future."

And also relies on land where renovated industrial buildings were demolished.

"It's already pre-rusted," Pasquarelli added. "We felt that to do a building that's kind of painted color would make it more like a shopping mall. If we made it stainless steel, it would feel like it's in LA. If we covered it granite, it would be like a Manhattan bank. For us, it was about this mix of grit and glamor that we think Brooklyn is really about."

Feeling of pride

A caller, "Nick in Windsor Terrace," described himself as "deeply, deeply opposed to the whole thing, still am, probably won't buy a ticket for a long while. I thought it was ugly... other night, I saw it all lit up... and I got it, and felt this weird sense of pride having it in my neighborhood."

Not quite his neighborhood, but everyone's allowed their feelings.

"Well, that's really exciting to us," Pasquarelli said. "We feel like it's going to continue engage the neighborhood.. as the housing built, I think the entire city will understand how it works as a composition, where you'll have retail around the block, residential--it will really come to life.""

Working as an ensemble

Michael D. D. White asked how much of roof is expected to remain if and when the residential buildings are built.

"There are residential building that will go around the arena. In a way, they became the backdrop, and the first one... is going to start in December," Sharples said.

"It remains to be seen... how many buildings and what scale actually will end up.. how much of design of the building has to do with what you expected to be coming rather than what's already there.?"

"The original design, the Frank Gehry plan, integrated the arena into the base of four buildings," Pasquarelli responded. "When they couldn't finance those buildings... the design had to change to a standalone structure... So we worked very closely with AECOM.. did all the exterior, and all the interior design, working in conjunction with them... it was about making the transition from a building that was completely hidden to a standalone object, with the composition of the three residential buildings as the backdrop buildings behind it... the facade you see now, the halo, the bands, they will remain when the residential buildings go in, and you will always be able to see them, but the composition will change."

The inside

Lehrer asked if the architects were constrained by commercial demands such as luxury boxes, vendors, and Jay-Z's 40/40 club

"We didn't feel we were constrained at all," Sharples responded. "What was really important to us is... the way it connects itself to the streets itself... when you come out of the transit hub, you can see right into the building, into the bowl, and see the scoreboard... we wanted that direct connection between the pedestrian on the street right into the main concourses."

Lehrer asked about the bathroom ratio. Sharples confirmed there are "more bathroom fixtures in the women's rooms than men's rooms."

The sidewalk and the street

Another caller cited "a tremendous amount of activity" outside the VIP section on the Atlantic Avenue site, and suggested the sidewalks couldn't accommodate it.

Lehrer then cited reports that, after the concert,  the flood of people headed across the street forced police to shut down Atlantic Avenue for ten minutes. "Are there problems with sidewalk design overall?"

"No," responded Sharples, ignoring the second question. "The goal was to privilege the main entry to the plaza. That's why we pushed the VIP entrance to the side. The other thing that's important, what separates VIP from the main lobby is the practice court... so people from the street can look in and see that.

Closing: nickname

"Lots of stadiums have cool nicknames," Lehrer said. "Have you thought about a nickname, maybe the Big Debit Card or the Foreman on Flatbush?"

"We'll see what happens in the coming years, with the Nets, who are going to be a fantastic team, with current ownership," Pasquarelli said. "Maybe we'll call it--the oculus is the rim."

"Or the Swoosh," added Sharples.

Added one commenter: Libor Center; Greed Center; Should Have Built on My Mall Center; $300 "affordable housing" tickets for Barbra; The House that Our Subsidies Built; 99 Problems and the 47% Gets all of 'em.

Unanswered questions

One commenter asked:
Could you please ask the architects about the Barclay logo and name on their building. Did they have a say on how and where it would be placed?
I posted a comment:
What do the architects think about the mid-block Atlantic Avenue exit, which has led to crowds spilling into Atlantic Avenue after events and crossing in the middle of the street, forcing police to shut down the street for 10 minutes or so.
Was that crowd behavior anticipated? Should there be a new crosswalk/light? Any other fix? What about after weekend afternoon events, when traffic is heavier and traffic diversion more problematic.?


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