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September 14, 2009

Talking SHoP About Atlantic Yards

NY Observer
by Eliot Brown

Q&A with Bruce Ratner's latest Atlantic Yards (arena) architect, Gregg Pasquarelli of SHoP.

You’ve been brought into Atlantic Yards to design the Nets arena along with the firm Ellerbe Becket. How did you get involved?

We just got a call from Bruce [Ratner, the project’s developer] one day. I think Bruce said, ‘I’d like to come visit your office. I’ve talked to a lot of people around the city, and they told me you might be the firm that could figure out a great design and figure out something that could be built, and could do it really fast.’ And so he came over, and we had a great conversation, and that’s how it started.

What’s he like to deal with?

I like Bruce. He’s very intense. He’s very smart, and he’s dealing with a lot of things at one time, but I know his heart is really in making a fabulous design.

NoLandGrab: Actually, Bruce's heart is two sizes too small.

It’s kind of odd—they used to do these really boring designs, and then suddenly with the Times building—

—Suddenly it’s Renzo, Gehry, and SHoP.

NLG: He means it was Gehry.

Is it tough being part of a project that is a target of a lot of caustic criticism?

Yeah. We gave serious consideration as to whether we wanted to do it. And I think the thing that convinced us was, after speaking with Bruce, we were convinced he really wanted to make a great building. … We showed Bruce—we didn’t hold back, we said, ‘Here’s what we want to do,’ and it was daring, and, ‘What do you think?’ And he really loved it, and was incredibly supportive and pushed us to make it as good as possible. And even knowing that the project was going to have its critics no matter what we designed, we felt like it’s our role as New Yorkers to try to make it as good as we could.

NLG: The money helped, too. Bruce also pushed them to make it as fast as possible.

Would you want to do some of the buildings around it?

Yes.

NLG: What buildings?

Is it awkward to be designing a project that’s making a superblock out of something that was a grid? Urban planning is generally going the other direction.

Over a site that has that much transportation infrastructure, I think it’s the only ethical, rational, sustainable thing to do to put density, and sometimes density requires some superblocks.

NLG: Gregg Pasquarelli knows better than that. Arenas require superblocks — density does not.

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Posted by eric at September 14, 2009 11:44 AM