Frank Gehry to Brooklyn: Drop Dead
Whereas we at Left Behinds have mostly discussed the problems with the Yards boondoggle from an economic and public policy perspective, Lethem is just aesthetically repulsed by the design. "And so," he writes in a public letter to Gehry, "I'd like to address you as one artist to another." Something about this tone struck me as amusingly snobby (in a way only a Brooklynite could get away with), but his points are clear and well articulated.
Most people, if they've heard of this proposal at all, believe you've been hired to design a sports arena, to house the New Jersey Nets, a team owned by Mr. Ratner. Anyone who's glimpsed the drawings and models, however, knows that other, larger plans have overtaken the notion of a mere arena. The proposal currently on the table is a gang of 16 towers that would be the biggest project ever built by a single developer in the history of New York City. In fact, the proposed arena, like the surrounding neighborhoods, stands to be utterly dwarfed by these ponderous skyscrapers and superblocks. It's a nightmare for Brooklyn, one that, if built, would cause irreparable damage to the quality of our lives and, I'd think, to your legacy. Your reputation, in this case, is the Trojan horse in a war to bring a commercially ambitious, but aesthetically—and socially—disastrous new development to Brooklyn. Your presence is intended to appease cultural tastemakers who might otherwise, correctly, recognize this atrocious plan for what it is, just as the notion of a basketball arena itself is a Trojan horse for the real plan: building a skyline suitable to some Sunbelt boomtown.
The key word there is "tastemakers," as in people like Lethem and Gehry and their friends and fans. You know, people with taste. "Frank," he seems to be admonishing, "you can't possibly want to go out looking like that. For God's sake, New Yorkers don't wear scrunchies. Put something decent on."
So will these "ponderous skyscrapers and superblocks" be as aesthetically offensive as Lethem claims?
Well, they ain't pretty.
As this architect blogger showed in his excellent critique of the design,
Jonathan, you've convinced me: It's not just tastemakers who should be appalled by Gehry's designs.
UPDATE: More frightening images, from On NY Turf (click there for full size, and more before and after pics):