Enjoy the new renderings of the Barclays Center while you can — because if the economy gets back on track, the look of the rippling steel building will be altered radically to include new buildings, including one atop the arena’s signature entrance way.
That was the main bit of news from Monday night’s presentation by the architecture team behind developer Bruce Ratner’s proposed basketball arena at the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues.
Before a crowd of nearly 150 architecture and urban planning professionals, Bill Crockett of the large Midwestern firm Ellerbe Becket, and Gregg Pasquarelli of the Manhattan firm, SHoP Architects, which joined the design team in June to diffuse outrage over the firing of original designer Frank Gehry, presented the design in greater detail than last week’s rendering release.
One thing they didn’t say was what they call it.
Both designers squirmed uncomfortably when moderator Rick Bell of the Center for Architecture mentioned other stadia around the world, such as the famed “Bird’s Nest” Olympic Stadium in Beijing, and asked what nickname they would give to their own design.
Neither even joked an answer, lest the name stick to a building that some have likened to a George Foreman grill, a baseball cap, a waffle iron, a deflated basketball and a clamshell.
The biggest bombshell of the night was the explanation that the freshly drafted design would be radically altered to make room for the so-called Miss Brooklyn tower, officially building B-1, that would stand at the actual intersection of the busy avenues.
Gehry had designed that tower to be an iconic gateway to the rest of the project, fronted by a 10-story, glass-walled “Urban Room” that would function both as a public atrium, a route to the subway stations below and an entrance to the arena.
In the current design scheme, that area is an open plaza below a canopy (the bill of the baseball cap, if you will) with a large hole cut into it.
But if building B-1 is ever built, the canopy, which Pasquarelli had called a “grand urban gesture,” would likely be removed, he said.
And on the Dean Street and Sixth Avenue sides of the building, the designers’ current rendering features open plazas that would also give way to tall towers if the economy improves and Ratner achieves his current vision of a basketball arena flanked by four mostly residential buildings.
Phase 2 of the project, which includes the public open space, the vast majority of the below-market-rate housing, and other public benefits is currently off the table until the economy further improves.
Other details emerged from the session:
• Of the limited retail space on the ground floor of the arena, the largest space is reserved for a team store on Flatbush Avenue.
• Basketball fans will still be able to see the scoreboard from the street during games, a key Gehry design.
• Advertising signage has been dramatically scaled back from Gehry’s scheme, which called for 150-foot billboards on either side of the “Urban Room.”
• The architects have signed onto Ratner’s optimistic timeline of breaking ground in December and then finishing the entire building in 26 months so that it can be of use during the 2011-12 basketball season.
A brief argument ensued after the question and answer session. The designers themselves were spirited away from reporters after the session by a spokesman for Ratner, so some members of the public took out their hostilities on moderator Bell for omitting any questions about the development process, sticking only to design issues.
As a small group berated Bell for that decision, Ron Shiffman, a former city planning commissioner and an opponent of Atlantic Yards, told reporters that the moderator should have allowed some “process” questions because the process by which Atlantic Yards came about was so ugly that it can not be beautified simply with good architecture.
“There is an ethical part of architecture,” Shiffman said. “Do you take any commission?”
He conceded that communities “are not always right,” but hastened to add that “these architects had a responsibility to talk to opponents and understand the issues before putting out renderings that are now being used as a marketing scheme for the developer.
“This project is removing people from property that they own and on the basis of a flawed finding of blight, so they should have turned down the commission.”
Earlier in the evening, Pasquarelli unintentionally addressed Shiffman.
“We love this city dearly,” he said. “Suburban arenas are like nuclear reactors in a parking lot. This arena is nothing like that.”