Thursday, December 27, 2012

The plaza view of the arena was never planned. But not building a tower at the intersection makes Atlantic Yards more modest (though it never would have been approved).

Gehry Partners design
What a difference six years makes.

When Atlantic Yards was proposed and approved, renderings showed the project in full, with huge towers at the intersection of Atlantic, Flatbush, and Fourth Avenues.

Today, the Barclays Center arena--however derided by some as a rusty turtle--seems a relatively modest intervention, lauded by most architecture critics.

The plaza, with its oculus and digital signage, was never supposed to exist. Those emerging from the new transit entrance were never supposed to get such photo-ready views.

Why? Because one major justification for the project--office jobs and attendant tax revenues--was that flagship tower at the intersection, once dubbed "Miss Brooklyn" and now simply B1, rising some 511 feet (or 620 feet in the rendering at right). That tower is on indefinite hold.

Across Flatbush Avenue, at Site 5--occupied by the big box stores P.C. Richard and (now-revamped) Modell's--another tower was to rise, likely containing office space.

Today, as shown in the common perspective from Flatbush just below Atlantic (full photo below), the arena looks broad and brawny, but not out of scale with the uglier malls across the street. It's a little over 130 feet high, taking full advantage of below-grade space, and the horizontal bands break down the massing.
Image via Curbed

But a project with no office tower would never have been approved, since it wouldn't have delivered the public revenues expected.

(Note the fanciful but meaningful PhotoShop job from Curbed, published 9/15/09.)

Those trying to to hold Forest City Ratner to its promises surely remember that, though many in the public may grumble if that plaza disappears. That's how these things work.

The lack of a tower

Below is a view looking east from Fourth and Atlantic avenues.



The rendering below--produced with a wide-angle perspective unavailable to me--shows what it was once supposed to look like, with a tower at the arena plaza, and a tower at Site 5, both since reduced in height by 100 feet.



The arena, buried

Below is another view, showing the Urban Room, with a very small plaza at the tip of the triangle.

Atlantic Avenue view, from Frank Gehry, in NYT article
From Atlantic Avenue

Below, a photo of the arena as seen from Atlantic Avenue east of Flatbush Avenue.

Panorama copyright Tracy Collins; permission required for re-use

Below, SHoP's current rendering, somewhat distorted from the hovercraft perspective.



The view from Flatbush

Consider the view looking northwest on Flatbush at St. Marks Avenue, below. The arena seems modest. But there's a 32-story building, B2, coming at Dean.




The rendering below purports to show the view from St. Marks (but is actually one block back, at Prospect Place). B1 and a version of B2 completely obscure the arena.


Both the location and height of buildings were adjusted in the Final Environmental Impact Statement

A current rendering from a hovercraft above Flatbush shows the arena flanked by three residential towers. There's apparently no reason to show the office tower, however,



Looking east

Below, a view east from Atlantic and Third avenues shows the arena in the distance.




The rendering below shows a march of towers along Atlantic, as well as the tower at Site 5.



Looking north

Below, a photo from the New York Times in September, showing how the arena only modestly occupies the vista looking north from Fifth Avenue.

From the New York Times
A view from further down Fifth Avenue



Below, some renderings from the Brooklyn Views blog in May 2006, suggesting how the office tower would change our perspective.

From Brooklyn Views
Bonus: the bully bank

Remember how the giant Williamsburgh Savings Bank building was going to crush Miss Brooklyn, which was actually supposed to be three times more bulky (even while shorter)?



Bonus: an arena down the block

A view looking east from Fourth Avenue and Pacific Street, which is residential on the south side. Residents on Pacific have reported urination across the street, at the cinderblock walls of the big box stores (a problem before the arena opened), noisy patrons, and flashing lights from the oculus.




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