September 19, 2012
What Comes Second: The Lesson of the Barclays Center
Culture Desk [NewYorker.com]
by Alexandra Lange
After nine contentious years, it is here. My first reaction, standing opposite on the corner of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues is: it is big. Much bigger than I expected. The only arena that I am familiar with as a pedestrian is Madison Square Garden, a circular box in a forest of surrounding towers. You never see the bulk of it plain. On television, the cameras shoot arenas from above, turning surrounding parking lots into wallpaper, and emphasizing the shape and edge. But here there’s nothing to obscure, soften, or relate to the arena, which occupies more than a city block. The width of the surrounding streets allows the Barclays Center to stand in relief as the alien presence it is. The architect Gregg Pasquarelli recently described the arena to the New York Times as what might happen if “Richard Serra and Chanel created a U.F.O. together.”
My second reaction was dismay. I do not think the arena’s architecture should relate better to the context. The immediate context is the developer Forest City Ratner’s two cheaply clad, faux-historicist malls across Atlantic Avenue. The larger context is the lowrise brownstone neighborhoods of Fort Greene and Prospect Heights. To relate to the first would be depressing; to relate to the second, impossible. The real building is an exact analogue to the renderings of this site, which, like so many other renderings, blur and dematerialize the neighbors. All you can see is the Barclays Center, because it is big, because it is dark, because it is without scale.
The arena was always a Trojan horse: its stars (Jay-Z), its original starchitect (Frank Gehry), and its semi-public function (bringing pro basketball to Brooklyn) have been used to make the development of the Vanderbilt rail yard seem like a reward rather than an imposition.
Brooklynite and critic Alexandra Lange, she of the epic Nicolai Ouroussoff takedown, pens a grim view of the (outside of) the Brooklyn arena, in a New Yorker Culture Desk blog post headlined What Comes Second: The Lesson of the Barclays Center:
As you walk east along Atlantic Avenue, the new Barclays Center appears first as a dark shape on the horizon... The wrapper was designed by SHoP Architects, and the tough mesh speaks of the industrial past and the digital present, an image reinforced by the pulsing screens lining the cut-out entrance canopy. The Barclays logo speaks only of corporate branding, without a lilt. Given the bank’s recent scandals, it may be helpful that the signage can be switched out.
It's notable that Lange commented on the corporate branding and the cloud over Barclays; I suspect that most sports fans and sports scribes will pay it no mind. But critics shouldn't.
She's somewhat generous to the pre-weathered steel: as online comments suggest, some people love it, some people hate it.
Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, First Review of the LIBOR Fixer Center (aka Barclays Center) Is In. It's Not So Good
Though architectural criticism of a boondoggle is kind of besides the point, we know that there is a coming barrage. Critic Alexandra Lange takes the first critical look at the arena exterior and finds it alien to its surroundings, dark and, like renderings, "dematerializes" the neighbors. And the "The Barclays logo speaks only of corporate branding, without a lilt."
Her overall thesis is that housing should have come first. And she is right.
Posted by eric at September 19, 2012 10:20 PM