Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Tuesday, June 09, 2021

stripped gehr
A tanking economy called for a cutback on extravagance in Brooklyn’s proposed Atlantic Yards, and that meant saying goodbye to “starchitect” Frank Gehry and his arresting $1-billion NBA arena design.

So developer and New Jersey Nets owner Bruce Ratner went to Plan B: A basketball barn downsized in pricetag and aesthetics, and already being savaged accordingly:

Whatever you may have felt about Mr. Gehry’s design — too big, too flamboyant — there is little doubt that it was thoughtful architecture. His arena complex, in which the stadium was embedded in a matrix of towers resembling falling shards of glass, was a striking addition to the Brooklyn skyline; it was also a fervent effort to engage the life of the city below.

A new design by the firm Ellerbe Becket has no such ambitions. 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.

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.

Yes, a good deal of snobbery permeates this critique: Ellerbe Becket’s Kansas City pedigree alone amounts to an affront when considering large-scale development in the five boroughs. Metropolitan propriety bristles at any hint of importing structures that resemble flyover-country landmarks.

Still, it’s not like Ratner didn’t ask for it with this stripped-down shell. There really is nothing distinctive about this proposed facility — it’s just a generic roof to provide a covering for the 20,000 seats beneath it. It’s utilitarian, but obnoxiously so. And it’s certainly not born from a vacuum — a comparison with Gehry’s might-have-been makes the Ellerbe Becket design look that much cheaper (even if “cheaper” still adds up to around $800 million).

At this point, it’s obvious Ratner is merely salvaging the attempt to develop his patch of Brooklyn, with any mega-square-footage enclosure feasible for housing the relocated Nets. Last-ditch effort that’ll probably get ditched altogether.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 06/09/2021 10:38 PM
Category: Basketball, New Yorkin', SportsBiz
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