Though the Ellerbe Becket architecture firm has been quietly working on their Gehry-undermining design for a cheaper Nets arena at Atlantic Yards for a very long time, details of the new Barclays Center are hard to come by beyond the one rendering leaked to the Times last week. No longer! Today the paper shares some new looks at the arena, accompanied by a scathing review from architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff, who writes, "although [developer Forest City Ratner] has refused to release details of the design, the renderings, obtained by The New York Times, tell you all you need to know." What, that it's still a big airplane hangar? Not quite. Turns out there's a whole lot more to learn from this switcheroo.
Lest we doubt for a second what Ouroussoff, a big supporter of Frank Gehry's original Atlantic Yards design, thinks of the Ellerbe Becket design, here's how his rant begins: "The recent news that the developer Forest City Ratner had scrapped Frank Gehry’s design for a Nets 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." The new design is a "colossal, spiritless box" that would "fit more comfortably in a cornfield" and "create a black hole in the heart of a vital neighborhood." If it ever gets built, of course. But not only does the new Barclays Center threaten to destroy the neighborhood, but it could also wreak havoc on the entire city and architecture as a whole:
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.
Memo to the Nets' ticket office: Don't bother calling the guy about season tickets.