»Intelligence starts with improvisation.«

Yona Friedman

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Love it or Hate it: New York’s New Basketball Arena

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In New York City, the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn is about to open the doors of its new 19,000-seat indoor arena, with eight (!) inaugurational concerts by Jay-Z (if you don't have a ticket yet: never mind, they are completly sold out). This is the first major piece of the controversial Atlantic Yards development project to open. A 50 million-dollar refurbishment to adjacent Atlantic Terminal train station, along with a new entrance near the arena, is slated to open soon.

Designed by SHoP Architects together with AECOM, the arena will be the new home of Brooklyn-based basketball team The Brooklyn Nets. The original architect for the Barclays Center was Frank O. Gehry, until the developers decided post-crisis in 2009 to drop him in favor of a cheaper alternative. Gehry's masterplan also includes 16 residential towers surrounding the Barclays Center, though construction has not started on any of them yet. The future of the residential and commerical components of the masterplan is unknown. The Atlantic Yards project was intended to create a new range of housing, retail stores, offices, and an arena in the area around the Atlantic Terminal rail transit nexus - the third largest in the New York metropolitan area.

As journalists were allowed to enter the arena in advance of the public last weekend, news outlets are already filled with reviews. It seems that this is a classic "love-it-or-hate-it" building. Here are some notable quotes:

Alexandra Lange, The New Yorker: »What the Barclays Center does is create a whole new context. A bolder, gutsier, lunar context that suggests not that the arena is too big, but that the neighborhood is too small. What would make the arena fit is towers—towers like the sixteen buildings approved, over a twenty-five-year period, for the eastern stretch of the site. Do I want those towers to be built now, just to make the arena work?«

Liz Robbins, The New York Times: »On Friday, the Barclays Center arena, wedged into the borough’s busiest intersection like a giant, rusty bread basket, will open after nine years of operatic disputation and delays: community lawsuits over New York State’s ability to seize private land and over the developer’s obligations; the collapse of the real estate market; the replacement of a star architect; the rescue from a Russian oligarch; racial friction; rats; traffic; and unfulfilled promises.«

While Justin Davidson (New York Magazine) seems to be the only one who is really impressed: »Anyone who feels that New York has become too shiny and seamless, too crowded with lithe towers coated in satiny glass, should march over to the corner of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues in Brooklyn, where a great, tough-hided beast of a building lies defiantly curled. Barclays Center is armored in scales of rusted steel, yet somehow it’s more alluring than fearsome. The outer walls ripple gracefully, the colored flash of multi-megawatt entertainment pulses from inside, and the front plaza reaches out to yank the public in. If Madison Square Garden hunkers glumly in its concrete drum, Barclays Center is an architectural chest bump: juiced, genial, and aggressive all at once.«

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