I have always loved Frank Gehry. I was a kid when the 1986 retrospective of his work landed at the Whitney Museum: it introduced me to contemporary architecture, and was the first step on a path that ended in my studying architecture years later.
But that’s all over now. The scales have fallen from my eyes. I have seen the feet of clay. And I am very, very sad.
Gehry is, in case you’ve missed it, the architect entrusted with the Forest City Ratner development and basketball arena in downtown Brooklyn. He’s just released a new-and-improved plan for the area (his first bombed). I don’t know if it’s an East Coast-West Coast thing (Gehry’s based in Hell… err SoCal), but he must think New Yorkers are really stupid, judging from the line of bull he’s trying to feed us.
Ratner’s complex features a phalanx of towers (16 of ‘em!), wildly out of scale with the surrounding neighborhoods of three- and four-storey buildings, the centerpiece of which is a massive 650-footer, Gehry’s oh-so-charmingly christened “Miss Brooklyn”, aka “The Bride.” He claims to have driven around Brooklyn in search of inspiration and a sense of place (perhaps someone should have told him that New Yorkers don’t ride around in cars, for starters: that may be how Angelenos experience their built environment but...) and in his peregrinations saw an actual Brooklyn bride, and modeled this central tower on her. He told reporters, “If you had seen the bride you would have fallen in love with her... I fell in love with her.”
Forget architectural theory, forget urban planning, forget that Gehry is a man of whom it has been written, “Hallmarks of Gehry’s work are his populist approach; he has a particular concern for the ways people move through, and live and work comfortably in the spaces he has created. He insists that buildings address the context and culture of their sites.” Nope, Gehry, lauded as one of our greatest living architects, is basing a multi-billion-dollar project, which will dramatically change the face of Brooklyn, and indeed New York City, on a pretty bride.
Well, it is a great way to avoid the real issues, like what 16 towers are doing in a low-rise neighborhood, and why, 30 years after the idea of planned developments has been completely discredited, are Gehry and his puppet-head landscape architect Laurie Olin building a mall-o-condo-plex surrounded by closed-off park-cades. Olin, in an interview with the Times, spat out this: “Yeah, Brooklyn has a structure of streets, and buildings and people, and a history and culture, but underneath that there’s a geology and a topography and a history of the land that I’ve found inspirational.”
In other words, “We know they’re there, but we really don’t care about the streets (which we are going to close off and cover over), or the buildings (which we’re going to seize, destroy and cast into permanent shade) or the culture (which we’ll just push out or build over) or the people (ditto). We’re just gonna do what we want, candy-coat it with idiotic imagery (did I mention that in addition to the “Bride” there is, natch, a “Groom,” and also a “Dude the Bride is Going to Cheat on the Groom With” amongst the towers?) and pretend we’ve actually
paid attention to something beyond our own agendas.” Here comes the bride....
We hear Rem Koolhaas is working on a Puppy... oooh, so cute!