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Architects to Brooklyn: Your skyline kind of sucks

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Skyscrapers are rising at a rapid clip in Brooklyn, but the architecture isn't exactly distinctive, say critics

City Point and the Dime Savings Bank in Downtown Brooklyn
Will Femia for Curbed

Brooklyn has long been overshadowed by Manhattan when it comes to skyscraper construction, but in the past decade, Kings County has quickly caught up with a skyline of its very own. But it’s still lagging behind Manhattan in one respect, according to a new Wall Street Journal report: distinctive (re: not-crappy) buildings.

WSJ spoke with a bevy of architects, archicritics, and other experts, all of whom seem to agree on one thing: the Brooklyn skyline … well, kind of sucks. More specifically, critics say that the somewhat nondescript towers that have popped up throughout the borough—clustered mostly in Downtown Brooklyn—aren’t particularly "representative of its lofty creative reputation," per the WSJ.

As for those specific criticisms: architect Deborah Berke, who worked on the interior design of 432 Park Avenue, called Brooklyn’s skyline "banal" and said it lacks "the distinctive profiles that tend to make the skyline become iconic." (Distinctive profiles like a square tower inspired by a trash can, perhaps?)

The WSJ posits that the fact that Brooklyn’s skyscrapers are all residential may be a factor; as architect Françoise Bollack explains, "their structural plans are all the same: It’s like building a hotel or a prison." And of course, there’s the money factor: simply put, developers aren’t throwing as much money at Brooklyn towers as they do with their Manhattan counterparts. Jed Walentas of Two Trees noted that, "we developers underinvest in design," and that "you’re going to get more interesting and experimental architecture at the highest end of the market, which we don’t really have yet."

Brooklyn is due to get at least one extremely distinctive skyscraper in the next few years, as SHoP’s supertall at 9 Dekalb Avenue (perched over the Dime Savings Bank building) moves forward. And some buildings, like 300 Ashland, are bucking the boring trend. But will that be enough to save Brooklyn’s "banal" skyline? Only time will tell.