The Real Deal New York

Architecture review: Barclays transit center — a Postmodern disappointment

But the Ellerbe Becket-designed station is an improvement on the arena itself, our critic says
By James Gardner | September 21, 2012 09:00AM

Because I have already weighed in on the Barclays Center, I will limit my comments on the stadium itself — the ribbon cutting for the venue takes place this morning — to saying that it is about as tawdry and uninspired a piece of work as I had anticipated. Let me also say that it was none too reassuring to hear the developer, Bruce Ratner, beaming with pride in his new stadium, as he announced to a NY1 reporter that he was planning to build residences nearby that would be designed, not by Frank Gehry or Shop Architects, as originally planned, but by the same architecture firm, AECOM (formerly known as Ellerbe Becket) that conceived the misbegotten Barclays Center. Slightly better than the stadium itself, but not by much, is the subway station that takes you to and from it.

An extension of the ever-buzzing Atlantic Avenue station, it is conceived in the same warped and curving rust-colored Postmodern vocabulary as the stadium. To see any act of imagination in the design of MTA subway stations is always welcome, and the best thing about this new one, which opened on Wednesday, is the startlingly abrupt way in which it seems to emerge like an island out of the ground. Also admirable are the efforts to enliven the rear section of the above ground structure with a sloping wall of grasses, whose bright green plants play well against the ruddiness of the façade and the two-toned pavers, fashioned from brown stone, that cover the surrounding ground.

Along the sides, however, the structure has been clad in mirrored glass that does not improve matters, any more than the fact that there are already signs of decay in the metal of its façade. The real disappointment, however, comes when you descend into the station itself. Quite clearly, it never occurred to anyone that somebody might actually want to design the place. Rather it has been conceived in the dullest and most functional style imaginable, with standard issue turnstiles, and little more than some ill-conceived brown and white tiles braying their laughable insufficiency across the walls.

The designers should have taken a ride over to the South Ferry Station, which opened about two years ago, to see what can happen when people with real artistic vision undertake to design public spaces.

James Gardner is The Real Deal’s architecture critic.

  • Harlemite

    Why not point out the obvious. The stadium is not as good as it should have been because this one was cheap to build and they had to go cheap. You should blame this on Danny “I took a $2MM buyout” Goldstein, not on Ratner. Today marks another big loss for Danny and his strong arm tactics (didn’t he end up losing something like 29 of 29 lawsuits to fight this progress). I could only hope that such a massive project will happen in the east 120s north of 125th. Good luck to the Brooklyn Nets and I hope the City wisely spends all of the new tax revenue taken from New Jersey.

  • OneTime

    holy sh*t that is one ugly piece of crap! and this is coming from a huge NETS FAN!

  • Norman Oder

    Correction: Gehry did the original arena design. Then it was handed to Ellerbe Becket (now AECOM). SHoP then put a skin on the arena and also worked on the interiors. SHoP also worked on the transit connection and is working on the towers.

    So: AECOM/Ellerbe Becket will not be working on the towers. They just did the arena.

    Norman Oder/Atlantic Yards Report

  • pheights

    For an architecture critic, you seem shockingly uninformed. As pointed out above, the transit terminal (the above ground part, at least) was designed by SHoP architects, along were the arena exterior and interiors. Elerbe Beckett dropped a tweaked version of a previous design on the site, and SHoP was later asked to develop a design using their structure and layout.

    The finish on some of the weathered steel panels does appear to have been damaged during installation, but with many of those that are only damaged cosmetically, the weathering steel will repair itself in time (thats part of the beauty of the material). Something that you neglect to mention in your criticism of the weathered steel is that the current finish is not complete. The material will continue to patina for years, and will look much different than it currently does only a year from now. Look at the panels on the lower section of the arena on the Flatbush side that are already much lighter in color than the rest of the arena for an indication of this.

    Mirrored glass? have you actually been to the site? There is not a mirrored finish on a single pane of glass on either building. There may be a reflection during bright daylight, but that’s what happens with all glass when lit from only one side. Foolish assessment.

    And uninspired? Did you see the Gehry project?

  • KaKaw

    James Gardner is a hater at heart. If you review his “work” you will see the words “disapointment, lack of coordination” uninspired” more than you can count. Must have brought his opinions over from FOX News.