All Over But the Shoutin’

October 19, 2005

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It seems that Bruce Ratner of Forest City Ratner has a proposal for a new arena and big mixed use development project on the edge of downtown Brooklyn, which has drawn some criticism, apparently. Who knew? All I know is, the shouting has drowned out MY very important story in today’s Times about all the other stuff that’s going on in downtown Brooklyn … projects that don’t get people’s dander up.


The New New Museum

October 6, 2005

new-museum.jpgThe New Museum of Contemporary Art, currently located in far west Chelsea, has been planning a move to The Bowery for some time now. Just the announcement several years ago to erect the first new museum building in downtown Manhattan in over a century drew a smattering of galleries to the nabe, causing some to speculate that The Bowery will become the alternative art gallery destination (for more on that, click here). Today The New Museum announced a ground-breaking ceremony on Oct. 11 for their new building at 235 Bowery (between Stanton and Rivington), designed by Tokyo-based architecture firm Sejima + Nishizawa/SANAA. With all the scary condo buildings going up around there, this promises to be a lovely antidote. Rooftop terraces (and the rest of the museum) should be open in time for their 30th anniversary in 2007. Rendering of interior lobby and bookstore below (click to enlarge).

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Photo by Christoper Dawson, drawings by Sejima + Nishizawa/SANAA.


Can We Re “Think” This Please?

October 5, 2005

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Also from the Regional Plan Association’s newsletter today (scroll to next item) is a review of Paul Goldberger’s Up From Zero: Politics, Architecture and the Rebuilding of New York, which just came out in paperback (note that the paperback version uses the Towers of Light on the cover instead of Libeskind’s original “Freedom Tower”). I couldn’t agree with Alex Marshall more:

…after reading Up From Zero, and knowing the difficulties Libeskind’s design has encountered, I found myself regretting that the design of Rafael Viñoly and Frederic Schwartz was not chosen, which vied with Libeskind’s plan for selection until Gov. Pataki made a choice. The centerpiece of the Viñoly-Schwartz [Think team] plan, at least initially, was two tall, lattice-work towers that would rise from the site and be essentially ornamental and symbolic, and completely public. The private office buildings with their 10 million square feet would be left to another portion the site, and perhaps for another time, when the office sector rebounded. Such a plan would have avoided

the controversies that have plagued Libeskind’s and David Childs’ Freedom Tower, which must double as a symbol AND a giant office tower.

Although meant to symbolize freedom and openness, the base of the tower was recently redesigned to resemble a windowless battle-hardened bunker to withstand a terrorist blast (emphasis added).

Ugh. That’s really depressing.


Idling at Zero

October 3, 2005

I just finished reading the updated paperback version of Paul Goldberger’s book Up From Zero: Politics, Architecture, and the Rebuilding of New York. Anyone remotely interested in understanding what has transpired there should read this book. Even though I’ve followed the events fairly closely, Goldberger’s running account not only reminded me of things I had lost track of, but provided invaluable insight into the conflicts, bad decisions and miscommunications that have plagued the rebuilding effort. As he concluded the hardcover version of the book, “Idealism met cynicism at Ground Zero, and so far they have battled to a draw.”up-from-zero.jpg

The book reminded me of how much hope there was at the beginning of the rebuilding process, and how that has been so shamelessly squandered. He quotes the initial “Vision Statement” of The Civic Alliance, organized by the Regional Plan Association, which said in part:

Lower Manhattan [can] show the way to a new urban future.

Is there anyone who can say with a straight face that we’re on the way to making that hopeful statement happen?

I had a post on Polis not too long ago pleading to re“think” the WTC rebuilding site, with a reference to Rafael Vinoly’s THINK team design of two open-lattice towers that mimic the Twin Towers. Governor George Pataki, who no one would argue is an architectural visionary, single-handedly nixed the THINK team’s striking proposal based on a gut reaction, which just goes to show how powerful even a rendering can be. It succeeds precisely because it is disturbing as a symbol of what was lost as well as how we will recover: Tall and proud yet never quite the same again. Goldberger’s description of Pataki’s reaction reminded me of the knee-jerk response to Maya Lin’s Vietnam Memorial, which surely never would have been built if the decision were up to one politician concerned about getting re-elected.

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