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From “The Hangar” to … “The Waffle Iron”?
Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner unveiled stunning new designs for the proposed basketball arena at the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues on Wednesday, renderings that strive to silence the outrage created in May when Ratner dumped Frank Gehry in favor of a Midwest architecture firm whose first effort, a hangar-like design, fell flat.
The new renderings of the $800-million arena are a collaboration between that firm, Ellerbe Becket, and a new partner, the New York–based boutique firm SHoP Architects.
“The Barclays Center will quickly become an iconic part of the Brooklyn landscape,” Ratner said in a statement issued on www.barclayscenter.com a Web site with the fresh renderings. “The design is elegant and intimate and also a bold architectural statement that will nicely complement the surrounding buildings and neighborhoods.”
Of course, not everyone cheered the latest incarnation of the basketball arena. Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, the principal opposition group to the full Atlantic Yards mega-project, described the design as a “big eye ball at Atlantic and Flatbush.”
The group also pointed out that the arena renderings did not include any of the proposed 16 skyscrapers that splay out from the arena to Vanderbilt Avenue — though only two of those buildings, containing a small fraction of the promised 2,250 units of below-market-rate housing — are currently being developed.
“The arena design is irrelevant,” the group said in a statement. “All Ratner is able to show, six years since unveiling his mega-project proposal, is the sixth version of his arena design and nothing else. The previous five designs all failed, and this new one is likely to do the same.”
The developer does face significant challenges to getting his project built. Ratner must sell millions in bonds to raise capital before an end-of-year deadline. And next month, New York’s highest court will hear a challenge to the state’s use of eminent domain to clear land for his project.
But on Wednesday morning, Ratner was keeping the focus on the new design. The statement described it consisting of “three separate but woven bands.”
“The first engages the ground where the weathered steel exterior rises and lowers to create a sense of visual transparency, transitioning into a grand civic gesture that cantilevers out into a spectacular canopy at the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues.
“The canopy, which is 30 feet above ground level, contains an oculus that frames the pedestrian’s view of the arena. The second, a glass band, allows for views from inside and outside of the arena. The third band floats around the roof of the Barclays Center and varies in transparency, the weathered steel creating backlit patterns.”
Gone is the soaring, glass-walled, cathedral-like “Urban Room” that was central to the original design by Gehry — whose inclusion in the project was one of its initial selling point. Instead, it is replaced with an open public plaza under a baseball-cap-like brim.
The arena was projected to cost around $450 million when it was unveiled in late 2003, but those costs skyrocketed to close to $1 billion until Gehry was fired in a cost-cutting move, Ratner said.
One architect not involved with the project said that the new design, at the very least, would be more sensitive to Brooklyn than Gehry’s plan.
“If SHoP can get Ratner to do the right thing — that’s a big ‘if’ — the project is actually in much better hands,” said Brendan Coburn, a DUMBO-based architect. “SHoP is a very, very, very good firm [that is] sensitive to the cost of construction. They are also committed New Yorkers — and I believe that several of the partners are Brooklynites.”
Borough President Markowitz, who is not an architect, was delighted by the new design.
“As I have said all along, Brooklyn is the greatest city in America,” the Beep said in a statement. “We’re ready to get back into professional sports’ big leagues, and this arena is going to make it happen.”
Markowitz said that the new design “delivers not only a luminous, iconic structure that celebrates Brooklyn’s industrial heritage with its steel and glass exterior, but one that harmonizes with the architecture of the surrounding neighborhoods and creates a welcoming environment for the public at street-level.”
The renderings and models will go on display publicly at Borough Hall on Monday, Sept. 14 — and there will be a public information session conducted by the Empire State Development Corporation, Ratner’s development partner, that evening.
Atlantic Yards renderings (starting at 10 am) and public information session (starting at 6 pm), Brooklyn Borough Hall [209 Joralemon St., between Adams and Court streets in Downtown, (800) 260-7313].
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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