Eminent Domain

"It was as if all he knew was what he had read in his own paper."

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Writing at Design Observer, architectural historian Alexandra Lange takes aim at New York Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff, focusing extensively on Ouroussoff's uninformed cheerleading for Bruce Ratner's notorious Atlantic Yards stadium project in Brooklyn:

Ouroussoff has an opinion about design, but his reviews offer not much more than that opinion. His approach — little history, less politics, occasional urbanism — shrinks the critic's role to commenting only on the appearance of the architecture….

Exhibits A and B in this critique are Ouroussoff's reviews of the massive Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn. It was unclear from his first review whether Ouroussoff had ever been to Brooklyn, so grateful did he think we should be for the services of (Los Angeles) architect Frank Gehry….

In neither review, nor those in between, did Ouroussoff ever describe the intersection as it exists or offer any personal experience with that Brooklyn renaissance. It was as if all he knew was what he had read in his own paper. He could see the models at the office. He could talk to Frank Gehry. That was enough.

Read the whole thing here.

Speaking of "little history, less politics," it's worth noting that The New York Times currently operates out of a midtown headquarters whose land was acquired via eminent domain and built in partnership with Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner, a fact the Times doesn't always disclose when writing about Ratner's Brooklyn boondoggle.

For on an-the-ground account from one beloved neighborhood business slated for demolition thanks to Ratner's Atlantic Yards, check out Reason.tv's "Billionaires vs. Brooklyn's Best Bar" below:

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  1. Frank Gehry sucks. Fuck Frank Gehry’s lame cliche postmodern architecture.

  2. I like Frank Gehry’s stuff. Mostly in someone else’s yard, but I do like it.

    1. I liked it the first time I saw it. Then I realized every fucking city was building the exact same stupid concert hall. From an engineering standpoint, they’re not great designs. Squiggly lines don’t make efficient use of space.

      Also, fuck Frank Gehry for being a part of Ratner’s bullshit.

      1. Well, there is that

    2. I sort of dig the EMP/SFM at Seattle Center. It goes thematically well with the science fiction part, and I don’t give a shit about the shrine to Jimi Hendrix EMP.

  3. Does anyone have suggestions for what those of us outside NYC can do to help out?

  4. Frank Gehry sucks. But his buildings make great places for shootouts. The lack of right angles makes for lots of places to hide, you see.

  5. Whatever happened to cool architects like Frank Lloyd Wright?

    1. Although, in fairness, a lot of Frank Lloyd Wright’s houses are cool but not necessarily great places for living too.

      1. It’s appropriate that Fallingwater is the most famous of Wright’s designs considering that a bed won’t fit in some of the “bedrooms”. And then there is that whole problem of the house being structurally unsound.

        1. My only experience with a (recently graduated) architect is that they can’t seem to accept that the laws of physics don’t change just because something is “inconvenient.”

    2. There is not a single cool thing about Frank Lloyd Wright.

  6. Let me make some flat-out predictions:

    1) Ratner will be back for more concessions/tax breaks within a year of the start of actual construction.
    2) The infrastructure that NYC provides will cost at least 4 times what the projected “revenue increases” over time come to.
    3) 50% chance the damn thing never completes.
    4) Also, 50% chance the corporation goes bankrupt within 10 years (Not Ratner personally, though.)
    5) The basketball team will move within 10 years or threaten to do so if NYC does not grant further concessions.

  7. Random call out to our favorite progressives … Tony and Chad:

    What, in your opinion is the progressive take on eminent domain seizures? It strikes me as something that progressive should ally with libertarians on, since it generally involves taking property away from poor people.

    And while I do hear progressives condemning evil developers a lot, it generally doesn’t go much beyond that.

    Or at least the objection seems to be mainly against development as such, rather than the fact that property is being seized.

    Or am I mistaken?

    1. “How will big projects ever get built if someone has a monopoly on land that someone else wants!”

    2. “Land ownership doesn’t exist!”

    3. They really only have their emotional reactions as talking points against this kind of thing – the strict utilitarianism of all three of them demands that the wants of the many outweigh the rights of the few.

    4. They really only have their emotional reactions as talking points against this kind of thing – the strict utilitarianism of all three of them demands that the wants of the many outweigh the rights of the few.

    5. Other people owning stuff that I want to use is Oppression, man! They wouldn’t even have that stuff if it wasn’t for me! Gimme gimme gimme!

  8. I am sure this guy found the Baltic White Sea cannal to be a triumph of arcitecture and engineering. How it was built is really immaterial I guess.

  9. I thought Gehry bailed on Atlantic Yards.

    The most generous analysis I can come up with for a lot of Gehry’s big stuff is him sitting in his office, asking himself, “What can I fob off as ‘starchitecture’ on the rubes this time?”

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