Friday, August 19, 2016

Curbed's "A decade on, Brooklyn’s Pacific Park megaproject is finally realized" (my responses + the Gehry switch)

Wondering what my response to the Curbed article, A decade on, Brooklyn’s Pacific Park megaproject is finally realized?

Well, see my Tweetstorm here. And read on.

First, the headline is just a wee bit conclusory. Getting ready to open a couple of buildings does not mean "finally realized." The non-park won't be finished until 2025, at the earliest.

More importantly, the framing of the article is (of course) tilted to the developer, and to a story about architecture, with no effort to ask the neighbors whether they agree the the layout "seems purposeful" or whether buildings fit into the neighborhood. Hint: they don't.

Heck, even I didn't notice on first read that Curbed treats Forest City CEO MaryAnne Gilmartin as steering the development, while she's merely the local front for Greenland Forest City Partners, and a Shanghai-based developer is the final authority.

Credit Curbed with making at least an effort to reach out--I get quoted a couple of times, including "It's hard to look at any piece of the project and ignore the overall taint or the ongoing question marks."

But Curbed didn't look into such kinda crucial things as the affordability of the "affordable housing" or the timing and sufficiency of the open space (which the developer keeps calling a "park").

Curbed's Amy Plitt does take cordial aim at Gilmartin's claim that "we're building a neighborhood," observing that marketing materials have "somewhat groan-inducingly" termed the megaproject "Brooklyn's newest neighborhood."

The Gehry switch

Perhaps the most astonishing paragraph is this, an example of what I call "Atlantic Yards down the memory hole:"
Atlantic Yards was originally planned as a Frank Gehry joint, with the starchitect laying out an expansive master plan for the site and designing the buildings that would rise there, including a preliminary version of the Barclays Center and the 62-story skyscraper dubbed, inexplicably, "Miss Brooklyn". But Gehry’s plan was waylaid by the 2008 recession, and in the aftermath, new architects—SHoP, COOKFOX, Marvel Architects, and Kohn Pederson Fox to date—were brought on to execute the vision for the site. "I certainly don't think I ever believed or supported the notion that Frank Gehry would be the architect of all of the buildings," notes Gilmartin. "It seemed almost antithetical to what a great diverse city and borough Brooklyn is. The diversity of the architecture, the different vocabulary of the buildings was also part of what we were striving for."
Hmmm. Well, Gilmartin certainly didn't make that public at the time. Was she somehow a Forest City Ratner dissident actively protesting her company's unwise policy? Doubtful.

Or has she seen the revisionist light, just as she's claimed that "Atlantic Yards was always a working title"?

Remember, Gehry himself said "Normally I would’ve brought in five other architects, but one of the requirements of this client is that I do it" and that "the client insisted that I do them all."

And, as Matthew Schuerman reported in the 2/26/07 New York Observer, when Laurie Olin, then the project's landscape architect, asserted that various architects "will probably be brought in," Forest City's project point man, Jim Stuckey, denied it: "Frank Gehry will be the architect on every one of them."

Olin also wisely predicted the project would take 20 years.
From the New York Observer

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