Saturday, February 10, 2007

Gehry Is So Very....

Pretentious. Okay, I'm a little late to this issue as it's pretty much a done deal, but I din't have this blog then. I just needed to give my two cents. And I may get some flack for this post, more because I don't really have a problem with the idea of the Atlantic Yards development. This is New York, shit happens. And when I say shit, I mean, large developments coming down the pipeline. But the problem with Atlantic Yards isn't that it's been proposed. It's the way in which the developers blinded the masses (with the exception of DDDB) by bringing on the world renowned Starchitect, Frank Gehry, to place his signiture undulating panels above what is basically a sports arena and residential complex.

Don't get me wrong, good architecture goes a long way in creating a sense of place, however the sense of place for large scale development should take into consideration it's surroundings. And Gehry was the wrong man for this job. The site, though underutilized, is in the middle of Brownstone Brooklyn. Park Slope is to the East, Boerum Hill to the South and Fort Green, Bed Sty and Clinton Hill to the West. These are historical neighborhoods that have actually remained mostly intact, unlike most of NYC. This site could be the key to linking them all together, and maybe even an arena would help that. But Gehry's designs are wrong for this corner of the world in Brooklyn.

Don't get me wrong, I don't necessarily dislike Gehry. His Disney Concert Hall works in it's location. It's a focal point in an otherwise modern city landscape, which brought a sense of place to a somewhat vacant area just out of LA's Bunker Hill business district. And the new Grand Avenue plan, which he is also involved in the design, has the potential to be a great destination and living environment. Additionally, his building in Chelsea, the name escapes me at the moment, works because it's in a more industrial area, it's design elements almost wave like with the waterfront across the street, and established row house neighborhoods separated by the soon-to-be-maybe-park "The High Line". It works. Here, however, his unusual facades, will stand out in a bad way, especially when up against the beacon of the Williamsburg Savings Bank.

I'm not saying that the development needed a traditional "brownstone" look to link the neighborhoods on either side of the development, but a design that was both progressive, yet also respectful to the current neighborhoods would go a long way to creating a good hood, one that adds to the existing areas, while also giving it it's own identitiy. As the design stands now, this will be a 1970s superblock, completely isolated from the surrounding environments, not just because the footprint of the development isn't more welcoming, but because it will stand out...and not in a good way.

Place matters. Starchitects often don't!


NoLandGrab said...

I don't mean to give you "flack" about your general support for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan. You bring up some important points.

However, there is something very troubling with proposing what would become the densest residential community in the nation without little public disclosure and debate.

Atlantic Yards is going to be an off-the-charts historic experiment in urban living, a point that has fallen flat on the casual observer.

Planitman said...

Very good point. My point, however poorly put, was that Forest City blinded a lot of people by hiring Gehry, the Starchitect, to gain favor. And I do think this is likely too dense. But like you said, it will be an historic experiment in urban living. What if it winds up working out?

Amanda said...

Even Gehry has expressed concern about his role as the only architect on the project - for better or worse