When I posted yesterday about the news that Frank Gehry would be replaced as the architect for a new NBA arena in Brooklyn, I hesitated to characterize the new plan proposed by the firm Ellerbe Becket because I could only find one image, which I published with yesterday’s post. As pictures go, it wasn’t very informative, though from what you could make out, it was not at all encouraging.
Today the New York Times has come up with a few more, so it’s official — ugh. The Ellerbe Becket design has already been described as resembling an airplane hangar, which is about the best you can say about it. Today the Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff, who was a big supporter of the original Gehry designs for the arena and for the larger Atlantic Yards project of which it was a part, calls the new design a “colossal, spiritless box”. That sounds about right too. An off-the-shelf glass wall along one side provides the “architecture”.
As I mentioned yesterday, Gehry is still the “master planner” of the larger Atlantic Yards project, a mixed business and residential development for which the arena was intended as a centerpiece. From the start the Atlantic Yards faced heavy opposition from Brooklynites who said it was too big, too dense, too tall — too much of everything for the still mostly low-rise borough. All the while, Gehry’s name — and his gifts as an architect, the imagination he brought to the project — did a lot to keep it moving forward. But there have already been any number of revisions to Gehry’s design, not only for the arena, but for other buildings in Atlantic Yards, and it’s less and less clear what role if any he will end up playing in the final product — except maybe just to lend the prestige of his name to a grossly adulterated outcome. Master planner? Master fig leaf might be a better word for it.
You can find the Times piece here.