The Nets season is over, Jay-Z and Barbra Streisand paid respects, and Disney On Ice rocked the house. Nearly a year after Barclays Center opened, its architect Christopher Sharples of SHoP Architects is being honored by the first annual Architizer A+ Awards on Thursday night. Sharples was brought on after Frank Gehry's replacement Ellerbe Becket's designs were compared to an airplane hangar. Here's a look back at some of the reactions to the arena.
SHoP has also spared Brooklyn another retro stadium. The architects have created something tougher, more textured and compelling, an anti-Manhattan monument, not clad in glass or titanium but muscular and progressive like its borough.
After nine contentious years, it is here. My first reaction, standing opposite on the corner of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues is: it is big. Much bigger than I expected. The only arena that I am familiar with as a pedestrian is Madison Square Garden, a circular box in a forest of surrounding towers. You never see the bulk of it plain. On television, the cameras shoot arenas from above, turning surrounding parking lots into wallpaper, and emphasizing the shape and edge. But here there’s nothing to obscure, soften, or relate to the arena, which occupies more than a city block. The width of the surrounding streets allows the Barclays Center to stand in relief as the alien presence it is. The architect Gregg Pasquarellirecently described the arento the New York Times as what might happen if “Richard Serra and Chanel created a U.F.O. together.”
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, home of the rebaptized Brooklyn Nets, 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.
The result is a rich coating of rust—one that makes the arena seem surprisingly in sync with the borough's industrial heritage, as though it could already be 100 years old. But even if Barclays feels as though it belongs on its site, like an architectural relic, it can't be declared a civic triumph just yet, since it is only the first component of the much larger project now expected to take 25 years to realize. Not until a few of the planned 14 residential towers are built, including some of the promised 2,250 units of affordable rental housing, and at least a few of the anticipated eight acres of public space are completed, will anyone be able to determine if Atlantic Yards, with the arena as its linchpin, will add to or detract from the streetscape of Brooklyn.
The richly tactile, weathered steel panels, according to SHoP partner Gregg Pasquarelli, are meant to evoke the “grit and glamour” of Brooklyn. That may be a stretch, but the intricate pattern and heavy materiality of the panels signal a level of seriousness and investment on the part of the developers toward the borough. They are trying to make a good and strong impression on Brooklyn (for comparison, one only need look across Atlantic Avenue to Ratner’s cheap-looking Atlantic Center, the unpleasant to shop in mall across the street). The contrast between the fluidity of the forms—which clearly reflect contemporary digital design—and the (artificially created) patina on the plates, creates a balance of high-tech and heft that seems appropriate for Brooklyn, a place that has always had a strong sense of itself.
And Mos Def:
HAIL THE NO NATION BEAST!!
whose shadow alone
And swallows streets
Pass gas then
Pick its teeth
Topple the trees
Zeroes and zeroes