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June 3, 2006

Skyline for Sale

NICOLAI OUROUSSOFF New York Times

But if the Gehry-Ratner lovefest has raised an expectation of innovative design, it has also stirred unease. Few would question Mr. Gehry's talent. The question is whether he has allowed his experimental ethos to be harnessed for the sake of maximizing a developer's profits. It's also fair to ask whether Mr. Gehry and other gifted architects have made a pact with the Devil, compromising their values for the sake of ever bigger commissions. Beyond that, their collaboration points up a major change in the way cities are being built. There was a time when government took an interest in big urban planning projects. Mr. Ratner and Mr. Gehry are operating under a model by which the government plays only a marginal role. Bigger social concerns, like housing for mixed incomes, equal access to parks and transit, and vibrant communal spaces, which were once the public's purview, now increasingly fall to developers to address or not, as they see fit.
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Atlantic Yards Report gives Ouroussoff points for not gushing over Gehry, but contests the overall message:

Blame the guv'ment? Ouroussoff gives Gehry & Ratner a pass, punts on scale

Ouroussoff treats the project is on track, with no acknowledgement that the environmental review process remains in the early stages. (We’re still waiting for a Draft Environmental Statement.) He makes no effort to assess the appropriate scale and its attendant effect on traffic, transit, and park space. He suggests that the recent token scaleback was a result of “heeding local protests” rather than the developer’s political calculation.

The critic maintains that pedestrian passageways serve as extensions of the street grid. He ignores Gehry's dismissive attitude toward local critics. And he suggests, spuriously, that citizens should blame the government, which has abandoned its vital public role, rather than more explaining that saying that the government has abdicated oversight and planning for this specific project.

Posted by amy at June 3, 2006 8:07 PM