NYT: Nicolai Ouroussoff on Frank Gehry Being Fired from Atlantic Yards Project

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From yesterday, a scathing condemnation of the recent turn of events in the continually controversial development project in downtown Brooklyn.

“The recent news that the developer Forest City Ratner had scrapped Frank Gehry’s design for a Nets [basketball] arena in central Brooklyn is not just a blow to the art of architecture. It is a shameful betrayal of the public trust, one that should enrage all those who care about this city… A new design by the firm Ellerbe Becket [is a] colossal, spiritless box, it would fit more comfortably in a cornfield than at one of the busiest intersections of a vibrant metropolis. Its low-budget, no-frills design embodies the crass, bottom-line mentality that puts personal profit above the public good. If it is ever built, it will create a black hole in the heart of a vital neighborhood.”

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15 Comments

  1. Just as powerful is the next paragraph in the same article…

    “But what’s most offensive about the design is the message it sends to New Yorkers. Architecture, we are being told, is something decorative and expendable, a luxury we can afford only in good times, or if we happen to be very rich. What’s most important is to build, no matter how thoughtless or dehumanizing the results. It is the kind of logic that kills cities — and that has been poisoning this one for decades.”

    So true.

  2. First of all, kudos to this post for bringing up a very important issue facing Brooklyn (I even blogged about it, and I don’t get any traffic!).

    It should be said, though, that Ghery was never a good choice for the project. As everyone already knows, Ghery is responsible for the Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain. Everyone knows that because it’s the last un-tainted project Gehry did.

    Right before beginning work for the Atlantic Yards project, Gehry was getting sued by MIT for faulty design. Then they brought him in to add a bit of “artistic flair” to the otherwise dull Atl. Yards project, probably to make sure Ratner’s newest project wouldn’t be reminiscent of his decidedly unimpressive, cookie-cutter Metrotech project, also in Brooklyn.

    Considering the scope of this project along with the enormous impact it’s going to have on the surrounding Flatbush neighborhoods, the Atl. Yards design should cater to affordability, green technologies, utility (stuff Brooklynites could USE), and unobtrusiveness (integrate it with the community instead of slash-and-burn development). Unfortunately, Ratner’s building condos, offices, and a basketball stadium where there used to be a community, and he’s using Eminent Domain to do it. What’s a borough to do?

  3. It’s bad enough that Atlantic Yards has to exist at all, but now it’s going to look like a Quonset hut? Following the sad precedent of Madison Square Garden replacing the McKim, Mead and White Penn Station, don’t looks count for anything?

  4. I like the way that Mr. Ourousoff twice describes the proposed buildings of Atlantic Yards as falling/tumbling “shards of glass” . . . as praise! Because I bet people would LOVE to live in a neighborhood where the skyline reminds them of tumbling shards of glass!

    It began as a real estate scam, and it’ll finish up as a real estate scam.

  5. ““But what’s most offensive about the design is the message it sends to New Yorkers. Architecture, we are being told, is something decorative and expendable, a luxury we can afford only in good times, or if we happen to be very rich. What’s most important is to build, no matter how thoughtless or dehumanizing the results. It is the kind of logic that kills cities — and that has been poisoning this one for decades.”

    Maybe the real problem is the discipline if we have only star-chitects OR hideous crap to chose between. If I were studying to become an architect, I would want to specialize in economics and attractive solutions and creative savings methods given non-Gehry budgets.

  6. Oh blather. Gehry’s a starchitect — he and his ilk should stick to designing trinkets and not important civic structures. I’d comment on the new design, but haven’t seen it yet. It’s not a shame to lose Gehry — but it would be a shame if the final design didn’t foster neighborhood practice, didn’t reflect the history of the space, or didn’t inspire the players and spectators it housed. Gehry was great on the last one, but sucked rocks on the first two.

  7. Gehry should be fired from the planet. It’s already 30 or 40 years late. Any dobts? C’mon out to Seattle and see the metal plated turd called the EMP.

  8. I lived in Seattle for 10 years and was there during the construction of the EMP. It was (is) a very controversial design. But I, personally, have always loved it.

    Architecture is a very subjective thing.

  9. Always fascinating to see the opinions of internet commenters (and NYTimes reporters, for that matter), on how other people should spend their money.

    I don’t suppose that any of you want to start passing the hat around to hire Mr. Ratner another architect?

  10. I can’t put a single piece of dirt on anything Frank has designed. Well, maybe with the exception of the Vitra Design Museum’s messed-up staircase, which was a construction error. And with the exception of Atlantic Yards. I didn’t like the stadium at all, but I thought the towers were okay.

    And vanderleun, have fun living in your white box, or whatever.

    I must be missing the whole point of this development. Oh, I remember, it’s for Ratner to make money, not for Brooklyn to enjoy. Pity.

  11. Cher Chris,

    Having spent the morning at EMP in Seattle and evaluating that multichromed pile of detritus yet again, I can say without equivocation that your taste is all in your mouth.

    Everything Gehry has designed needs dirt. Lots and lots of it. Midwest Mound deep.