The Real Deal New York

Not postcard worthy: Dean of Yale Architecture School bemoans Brooklyn’s “banal” skyline

Developers often scrimp on design to maximize profits, Two Trees' Jed Walentas says
August 11, 2016 11:45AM

The Brooklyn skyline (inset: Deborah Berke)

The Brooklyn skyline (inset: Deborah Berke)

When it comes to iconic skylines, Manhattan’s cup runneth over thanks to the likes of the Chrysler Building, Empire State Building, Bank of America Tower and World Trade Center.  As for Brooklyn? Not so much.

Although 12 of the borough’s 15 tallest buildings have gone up since 2000, underwhelmed architecture critics say what the buildings have in height, they lack in design and good taste.

“The problem with these buildings is that they are banal,” Deborah Berke, dean of Yale’s School of Architecture Told The Wall Street Journal. “They don’t have the distinctive profiles that tend to make the skyline become iconic.”

Some projects have been deemed praise-worthy, including SLCE’s AVA DoBro at 100 Willoughby, which features speckled glass, and also TEN Arquitectos’ 300 Ashland Place, which has an irregular triangular structure.

But many developers lack the incentive to pursue great design, according to Jed Walentas, CEO of Two Trees Management TRData LogoTINY, the developer of 300 Ashland. Developers tend to “underinvest in design” because few have “figured out a way to capture the value of that public good and incentivize developers to do it,” he said.

Historically, corporations have invested in “statement” designs, such as Manhattan’s Chrysler Building or Bank of America Tower. But residential developers in Brooklyn have gravitated toward boxy structures that can maximize residents’ views — and profits.

Architect and Columbia University adjunct professor Françoise Bollack had a harsher take: “Their structural plans are all the same: It’s like building a hotel or a prison.” [WSJ] — E.B. Solomont