Gehry in New York

And on Brooklyn. As part of TimesTalk, a speaker series hosted by the NY Times, Gehry was in town and took questions from an audience, moderated by Nicholai Oussourroff. There's a great, though very biased pretty much focused on Brooklyn, report from the talk on TimesRatnerReport. (via Veritas et Venustas, via Curbed).

The statement that stuck out for me was from Peter Krashes, president of the Dean Street Block Association, who said to Gehry,

"We don't want you to turn your back on us, as an architect. What we want you to do is explain your role as a planner."
Architects do design for large contexts - their designs don't end at the building edges - so it is worthwhile to really understand the urban context, especially for those who profess to be "do-gooder, lefty types." I have always felt that Gehry just didn't get what he was doing to Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards neighborhood, either by not asking enough questions from the people he's working with, or by simply not having the experience of asking. This talk corroborates my impression. Or perhaps it's more simple: ignorance is bliss.

I'm looking for a more pro-Gehry account of the talk, but nothing has shown up yet. Let me know if you see one!


KevinS said...

Question: Has Gehry lived in a city?

(hint: most of LA does not count)

Shin-pei said...

This is a trick question, no?

Anonymous said...

Did you see the charlie rose interview with Assourroff? I can't remember the quotes exactly but Rose asked him something like, "How do you evaluate buildings? What's your process? Assourroff replied, "I go there and I look and look and look and look..."

It was very telling. To Assourroff and these other guys it's all about the eye. It's all about the skyline. It's how the thing looks. It's not about the experience. It's not about how it feels and functions and what it does to public space. In other words, Assourroff's way of determining whether architecture is "good" or not is entirely superficial and intellectual. It's divorced from human beings' real everyday needs.

madgeneral said...

A question: what "needs" were being served by the Atlantic Yards space as it stood. I'm asking from the point of view of someone who hasn't lived there, and wouldn't know.

Also advice: when someone starts describing themselves as a "lefty, do-gooder type," duck.

Anonymous said...

the "footprint" that ratner wants to build upon serves a number of purposes. about half of it is used as storage for trains. it's a railyards. that'll still exist. it'll be moved and they'll build a platform over it. the other half of the land, actually more than half, is used by a combo of private residences and small businesses. many of these businesses and residents have been bought out or have left due to threat of eminent domain. others are still hanging on.

virtually everyone in the communities around the railyard would like to see some development take place there.

Shin-pei said...

I missed the Charlie Rose interview, thanks for sharing.

There's no arguing that some development should happen. I just think that people hire the wrong "eyes" for the jobs. I think the eminent domain issue, while important, has dominated what is actually happening there. Energy went into fighting property protection - less energy went into advocating for greater usability of the design. I think even the ongoing discussion about transportation has been divorced from the "design," in the sense that it is treated as separate, with a "consultant" instead of integrated and folded into the concept.

Sigh. I guess all we can do now is watch it happen.

Anonymous said...

not so. there is still plenty of time and space and opportunity to get involved. and you should. pps should. you don't need to just sit back and watch. things haven't been decided yet. not by a longshot.

Norman Oder said...

Could you elaborate on what you mean by a "very biased" report that I wrote on TimesRatnerReport? Report is here:

[Also see report at the NY Observer's The Real Estate blog: http://www.observer.com/therealestate/2006/01/gehry-grilled-in-manhattan.html]

Shin-pei said...

I meant that the write-up was focused on criticism of Gehry. I wanted to try to find something written from the perspective of a Gehry fan after I read your article, since it seemed that there were definitely two camps in the audience.

Lucy said...

Take a look at what public space expert Jan Gehl had to say. Gehl also said that Gehry's architect made sense if viewed from above, like in a helicopter, but not for people on the ground. (For all related media on Atlantic Yards, see nolandgrab.org. To get involved, visit dddb.net.)

Gehry does not collaberate with the people who have to live with or in his designs. His architecture is a monument to him, Gehry. If he cared about the people there, he would have started with a conversation so that no one would be forced to "shout" or "jeer". Shouting occurrs when people are not listened to. Otherwise, it would be a dialogue and there is no dialogue what so ever included in this project.

December 01, 2005
Danish Architect Weighs in on Ratner Project
Brooklyn Downtown Star coverage of Jan Gehl's walk through Metrotech and the Atlantic Yards site:

The problem with developers in general, Gehl concluded, is that they sometimes over-scale projects, planning on elephant or dinosaur scale, rather than on human scale.

"For several million years people have not been much bigger," he said, but urban developments are forever growing.


Shin-pei said...

I feel that when the criteria for a project has not been defined and agreed upon upfront, then there's little room to participate productively once a design has been proposed. For example, Gehry might be driven by doing cutting edge design, Marty Markowitz is interested in increasing Brooklyn's visibility, and NYCDOT is interested in not creating more congestion on Atlantic Avenue. What we're left with in advocacy, community input etc, is an opportunity to mitigate the damage, with little impact on the overall vision of the project. I'm being a pessimist in this case, perhaps, but anything that happens now would have little effect on the overarching project.

Nonetheless, someone else had suggested that PPS get involved, and some improvement is better than none. Apparently there are other designers with more of a usability bent that have been invited to consult. I'll keep you posted.

Norman Oder said...

So "very biased"="focused on criticism of Gehry"?

First of all, my report was focused not on criticism of Gehry but on the segments of the session that addressed the Brooklyn project--that's my interest, and the interest of readers of my blog. A good amount was nearly verbatim. Secondly, the criticism within that report isn't biased if it's well-founded, and Gehry either misspoke or lied or was misinformed about two fundamental issues: whether it's an "empty site" and whether the buildings other than the arena were driven by a design esthetic or by the need to generate revenue for the developer.

I happen to like Gehry's work in general. I could imagine that a Gehry fan might have written a more general account of the session and noted that it was marred by a handful of Brooklynites who insisted on trying to get answers about the Atlantic Yards project. But I can't imagine that that writer would have defended Gehry regarding many of his statements on Atlantic Yards.

Shin-pei said...

Would it be better if I took out "very"? All I meant is that you did focus on the Brooklyn project in your report, which is the purpose of your blog as I understood it. I'm still curious about the people who went to the talk because they just like Gehry. Period.