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August 10, 2008

Warnings about "the architect as artist" and Gehry's victimization of Brooklyn

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Atlantic Yards Report reviews "Fort Greene-based critic Charles Taylor's essay in Dissent, headlined A Wrench in the Machine for Living: Frank Gehry Comes to Brooklyn, is notable in that it connects Glazer's critique directly to Atlantic Yards, just as Glazer has done so in public presentations, albeit not in the text."

Taylor suggests such vision is enabled by starchitect-defending critics like Nicolai Ouroussoff of the New York Times, who wrote 12/16/07, in an essay headlined Let the ‘Starchitects’ Work All the Angles :
Architects have no control over a development’s scale or density. Nor do they control the underlying social and economic realities that shape it.

Taylor calls that "horse puckey," arguing that, when an architect like Gehry "signs on to an immense public development, as Frank Gehry has to Forest City Ratner’s gargantuan Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, he not only gives concrete expression to how the scale and density might be realized, thus having the most direct impact on “underlying social and economic realities,” his imprimatur gives the project the weight of cultural edification."

It's not quite a public development, but rather a public-private one. But Taylor's point is sound. As Brooklyn Views blogger Jonathan Cohn (an architect) wrote 5/21/06 in a piece headlined It's The Scale, Stupid, while the architect does not decide the size of the project, "there is a danger in being hoisted by the developer's petard when taking on a project that is seriously flawed in its conception."

And I pointed out that Ourousoff fails to acknowledge that starchitects, by virtue of their fame, may in fact have some power, and that the public's capacity for discernment is aided or hindered by the effort by the starchitect's clients to survive what he calls "an often tricky public review process."

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Posted by amy at August 10, 2008 10:42 AM