Atlantic Yards: From Great To Good

deanbig.jpgYesterday's news that Ellerbe Becket is apparently only going to be responsible for the inner workings of the stadium we so roundly hated on a few months ago is welcome.  SHoP does great work, they love New York, and they are sports guys, so it seems like a brilliant match.  As Nicolai Ourousoff commented in yesterday's Times, SHoP has done a pretty thorough job of redesigning the stadium's urban presence.  It looks swell.  It's New York again (possibly more so than Frank Gehry's design was).  And it looks city-friendly.  But as Mr. Ourousoff notes, several large pieces of Gehry's original design are missing, meaning the stadium could be built without any of the interlaced residential components in the original plan.  That is unacceptable.  Left to the future, the supertowers will never get made, and certainly never get interlaced with the stadium building. The whale will be beached.

Nicolai Ourousoff's love letter to the New York Five a few weeks ago--where he lamented the lack of heirs to the throne of Great New York Architects--seemed like a strange missive in the era of Diller + Scofidio Renfro's two huge triumphs this year, not to mention about a hundred other architects (including SHoP!) doing great work.  Yet now it seems not so missive-like, because it is difficult to see if SHoP is merely content to completely redesign Ellerbe Becket's retarded stadium barn, or if they are going to take the next step and slap Bruce Ratner around until the whole complex gets built.  We know that the folks at SHoP easily have the chops to take this on.  Will they?  Our hopes are high.

You know what separates the great architect from the good?  It isn't amazing or even excellent design.  It is the ability to redefine the context of a project.

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