Hey, Frank, Size Matters!

Would Frank Gehry rethink his involvement with the Atlantic Yards?

Even though I wrote approvingly of the Frank Gehry designed (and now much reviled) Atlantic Yards project when it was unveiled four years ago (Brooklyn’s Proposed Stadium: Not a Bad Idea), I’m still on the Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn newsletter distribution list, receiving missives from the group on a weekly basis. This week’s email, headlined “Brooklyn Literary Community Joins Fight Against Atlantic Yards,” promoted a fundraising book of essays entitled Brooklyn Was Mine featuring some of the borough’s notable writers: Jonathan Lethem, Jennifer Egan, Robert Sullivan and my friend Phillip Lopate.

When you think of the cache this architect possessed just five or six years ago—especially with cultural creatives like this who a decade ago under different circumstances (a single sculptural museum, for instance) would have been thrilled with the arrival of a new Frank Gehry building—it’s a stunning reversal of fortunes. And indicative of the damage this particular project has done to the (gag here if you must) Frank Gehry brand. As I’ve watched this self-proclaimed “old lefty” become a symbol of greed and overdevelopment (hi Bruce Ratner!), I’ve often wondered if Gehry himself in an unguarded moment (aided by cigars and cognac) might admit to some regret over this one. He can, afterall, pick and choose his clients. So I wonder, would he take this one back if he could? Or is the lure of scale (and the commensurate commissions that go with it) simply too irresistible?

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