When we derided the bait-and-switch redesign of developer Bruce Ratner's Nets arena as "a banal homage to any number of unremarkable field house arenas across America," some readers accused us of snobbery. But isn't that the same anti-elitist attitude that gave America eight years with a simian president just because the knuckle draggers found him folksy? That's not to say Gehry's scrapped design was the Obama of arenas, but you can certainly imagine, say, Sarah Palin feeling right at home watching some arena football in this eyesore (above). And Nicolai Ouroussoff at the Times gets it:
Whatever you may have felt about Mr. Gehry’s design — too big, too flamboyant — there is little doubt that it was thoughtful architecture. His arena complex, in which the stadium was embedded in a matrix of towers resembling falling shards of glass, was a striking addition to the Brooklyn skyline; it was also a fervent effort to engage the life of the city below.
A new design by the firm Ellerbe Becket has no such ambitions. A colossal, spiritless box, it would fit more comfortably in a cornfield than at one of the busiest intersections of a vibrant metropolis. Its low-budget, no-frills design embodies the crass, bottom-line mentality that puts personal profit above the public good. If it is ever built, it will create a black hole in the heart of a vital neighborhood.
But what’s most offensive about the design is the message it sends to New Yorkers. Architecture, we are being told, is something decorative and expendable, a luxury we can afford only in good times, or if we happen to be very rich. What’s most important is to build, no matter how thoughtless or dehumanizing the results. It is the kind of logic that kills cities — and that has been poisoning this one for decades.
And on and on he goes, calling the new design "as glamorous as a storage warehouse"... "a monstrosity" and "a shameful betrayal of the public trust, one that should enrage all those who care about this city." The article is one of those fun, scathing indictments that come around now and then to warm your heart. But what matters now are the hearts and minds of the Empire State Development Corporation, which will now decide whether to approve this boondoggle.