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Kimmelman Likes Barclays Design, Hates Atlantic Yards

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For the most part, New York Times archicritic Michael Kimmelman is a fan of the new Barclays Center, describing the new arena as "textured and compelling, an anti-Manhattan monument, not clad in glass or titanium but muscular and progressive like its borough." His prose, in fact, is almost poetic (maybe he's been reading Rhyme Time?): "The panels swoop and curl lengthwise around the building, ancient chains binding a giant Gulliver. They leave openings here and there for ribbons of windows that provide peekaboo views out from and into the interior. At night the center mostly dissolves in the darkness, save at street level, where a monotonous concourse of shiny shops flanks its glossy front door."

Even though Barclays opened a month ago, Kimmelman waited until now to review the arena so he could experience it in action. Inside, the place exudes "a sophisticated chill, warmed by an eager, Disney-trained staff," and the steeply raked seating provides excellent sight lines from all levels. He was also "startled by how hassle free it was" to get to the arena for events via public transit. But he really, really hates the bright blue Barclays sign that greets you when you emerge from the new station. The sign, he says, is "as discreet and incongruous as a cheap paper name tag glued to the lapel of an expensive suit," adding that it "should help pay for something besides its own bad taste."

For as many nice things that he had to say about the Barclays Center design, Kimmelman had a lot more not-so-nice things to say about its place in Brooklyn and the forthcoming Atlantic Yards residential towers. Barclays, without its towers, "is like seeing a naked man with just his socks on?nice socks, but we still can't be sure what he's going to look like when he gets dressed." He notes that the towers will obscure most of the arena's exterior (which may please some people), and they will turn the project into "a titanic complex."

Then he gets pretty deep into the development politics surrounding the project, opining that the whole shebang "exemplifies how the city, in this case hamstrung by the state, got planning backward, trying to eke public benefits from private interests awarded public subsidies and too much leeway." He adds that the area needs more schools, public services, and pedestrian-friendly roadways, and that these things should be incorporated into the remainder of the project, "which promises next to nothing for the public realm."
· An Arena as Tough as Brooklyn. But Street Smart? [NYT]
· Barclays Center coverage [Curbed]
· Atlantic Yards coverage [Curbed]

Barclays Center

Atlantic Avenue at Flatbush Avenue, Brooklyn, NY