Atlantic Yards goes Futurama

Building blocks: The “Garden in the Machine” design places terraced public gardens over a dramatic, sloping apartment complex.
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If you start to build it, they will wildly extrapolate.

Work has been underway at the Atlantic Yards mega-development at Atlantic and Flatbush avenues since the Barclays Center arena broke ground in 2010, but that is not stopping a group of architects from pitching outlandish alternate designs for the project. The point of the exhibition around the corner from the arts and entertainment complex is not to get developer Forest City Ratner to change its plans, but to get people talking about what might have been, an organizer said.

“We want to get people interested in how new parts of the city can be built,” said Thomas Barry, who runs Opera Studio Architecture and helped organize the show. “There’s just not a lot of exposition of architectu­re.”

“Atlantic Yards Alternatives” includes mock-ups from five teams of designers. The exhibit is on display at Warehouse 623, on Bergen Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues. Each piece offers a different take on how to avoid commonly criticized aspects of the original plan, which calls for 15 high-rises containing 6,430 units of housing.

Barry sees a problem with the way the current plan connects to the surrounding area, saying placing tall buildings in clusters around open space gives neighboring blocks the cold shoulder.

“Towers are the urban equivalent of a gated community and that stands in contrast to the sort of townhouse blocks that make up the neighborho­ods,” Barry said.

Barry’s team’s “The Garden in the Machine” plan is a fantastical green-roofed building complex, broken up by courtyards and sloping up from near the four-story level of Dean Street to a point that towers over the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic.

“The density ramps up as you get closer to the high activity zone,” said Brendan Comfort, a student of Barry’s at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. “You don’t want to overwhelm the neighborho­od.”

But other designs make no attempt to blend in with Prospect Heights. “Flexible City,” the plan created by New York Institute of Technology professors Matthias Altwicker and Farzana Gandhi, is a space-aged compound made of modular, moveable units that generates its own electricity using wind turbines and solar panels.

“When you just build housing, it can never be changed into anything else,” said Altwicker. “Let’s make buildings that can be used for different purposes.”

There was no better place to start these discussions than spitting distance from Atlantic Yards, Barry said.

“It was critical to have it here,” said Barry. “The neighborhood and the people adjacent to the development project are affected by it the most.”

“Atlantic Yards Alternatives” at Warehouse 623 [623 Bergen St. between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues in Prosepct Heights, (347) 770–8898,]. Through June 22, Tuesday–Sunday, 11 am–6 pm. Free.

Reach reporter Matthew Perlman at (718) 260-8310. E-mail him at Follow him on Twitter @matthewjperlman.
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
How about just using the UNITY Plan, which probably costs less compared to anything else?
June 16, 2014, 3:10 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
How about just using the UNITY Plan, which probably costs less compared to anything else?
June 16, 2014, 3:10 pm
John Wasserman from Prospect Heights says:
Tal Barzilai says:
"How about just using the UNITY Plan, which probably costs less compared to anything else?"

And then he also says it one more time.
Pardon the interruption.
June 16, 2014, 4:22 pm
Jacob from Prospect Heights says:
Because the unity plan was uninspiring. Also because the developer has gained the approval to build 6 million square feet and he won't easily give it up.

I think that the tone of this article is dismissive. To call the projects 'outlandish' without any accompanying critical assessment is unprofessional and sloppy journalism. I suggest actually seeing the exhibit and really understand how some of the schemes actually work and form your own opinion.
June 16, 2014, 4:33 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
First of all, it only came up twice because for some reason, the page wasn't responding. As for the UNITY Plan, if you bothered to look it up, you would have seen that it would have given much more of the promises than what Ratner would have offered, which he has still yet to deliver on. Also, it was much more in scale with the area let alone not using any taxpayer dollars. If Ratner didn't get his way, that would have been built on just the rail yards itself leaving the rest of the area untouched. Another thing was that the UNITY Plan was diving the site to several developers rather than just giving all to one only.
June 16, 2014, 6:15 pm
Jill from Fort Greene says:
I am glad to see architects bringing creative ideas to the community and to the discussion table. It is a pity developers do not have open discussions like this one. The Garden in the Machine looks good, and I do not understand what the author calls futuristic about it. The fact that we willingly accept the lowest denominator architecture does not make good designs unrealistic or futuristic.
June 16, 2014, 7:20 pm
Mom from Clinton Hill says:
How about a mansion in the projects? Like, on the outside designed to look like public housing, but on the inside only for the ultra rich.
June 16, 2014, 7:50 pm
John from Gowanus says:
"If Ratner didn't get his way..."

Okay, but he did get his way. The UNITY plan's hand-wringing approach to density is no solution now that NYC is growing at a steady pace. The best way to protect the existing brown stone neighborhoods and keep housing affordable is to have more high-housing on the market, not less.
June 17, 2014, 4:22 pm
John from Gowanus says:
high-density housing*
June 17, 2014, 4:22 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
If any of you bothered to even look at the UNITY Plan, which so many of you probably never did because it wasn't something you wanted, you would have seen that it would have given a lot more affordable housing compared to what Ratner would be giving. As for the density, it was more with the area rather than against it. Much of what was in the renderings wasn't final especially when the site wasn't going to be done by just one developer. Nevertheless, the new strategy the opposition has to this is now holding Ratner accountable for his promises that he made now that he got his way, and nobody likes a backstabber especially if it's coming from those who originally believed he was going to keep those said promises let alone went to hearings to fight for him just because they were being paid to.
June 17, 2014, 6:01 pm
Jacob from Prospect Heights says:
I just wish somebody would build something cool, like some of these schemes show - something that would become a landmark and a destination, rather than just a bunch of towers. Blah! We need ambition in our city planning again. When was the last time... central park, rock center? WTC and the 'freedom tower' was a missed opportunity.
June 19, 2014, 5:27 pm

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