Are Brooklyn’s Skyline and Tall-Building Boom “Banal”? A Closer Look at What the Experts Say

The super tall tower planned for 9 Dekalb Avenue in Downtown Brooklyn. Rendering by SHoP


    The Brooklyn skyline has been sprouting quickly, but the tall towers are mostly banal and not worthy of Brooklyn’s reputation as a creative center, according to the Wall Street Journal. What is needed are “distinctive profiles” that help make a skyline “iconic,” the Yale School of Architecture Dean Deborah Berke told the paper.

    The story singled out a few buildings worthy of praise: SLCE Architects’ AVA DoBro, for its distinctive speckled glass, and TEN Arquitectos’ 300 Ashland Place — aka BAM South — for its unusual faceted front.


    Rendering of the faceted facade of BAM South next to the iconic Williamsburgh Savings Bank Tower at 1 Hanson Place. Rendering by Grain Collective

    The latter is rising next to the landmarked Williamsburgh Savings Bank Tower at 1 Hanson Place, whose clock tower and strong-shouldered Art Deco massing is the very definition of iconic. It was, of course, the tallest building in Brooklyn for almost a century.

    The story didn’t call out any offenders by name. Nor did it talk about promising high-rises in the works, which include the super-tall tower planned for 9 Dekalb Avenue (also known as 340 Flatbush Avenue Extension) and the unusual complex growing up around the landmarked 1880s Domino Sugar Factory, both notable for their design and both by SHoP.

    And because the story focused on tall, it didn’t mention the Barclays Center, the low-slung rusted steel structure also by SHoP, which despite development-related controversy, opened to architectural critical acclaim. (Or many other noteworthy low-slung structures, the Weeksville Heritage Center among them.)

    Brooklyn Tallest Buildings

    A comparison of Brooklyn’s tallest towers in the works

    Brooklyn is home to a great deal of iconic and distinctive architecture, of course — much of it historical. It also has a reputation as a leading hub for adaptive use of historic buildings. There are many dozens; some of the better known ones include the Wythe Hotel and the in-the-works Empire Stores and 10 Jay Street, an old and landmarked warehouse ODA Architecture is transforming with a sugar-crystal-inspired curtain wall facing the East River.

    As the Journal points out, deep corporate pockets and a willingness to invest in “architectural branding statements” create such distinctive buildings as the Chrysler Building, the Empire State Building and the Bank of America Tower. Residential buildings, which dominate in Brooklyn, are rarely distinctive for practical reasons such as cost and size.


    Williamsburg’s Domino development. Rendering by SHoP

    “You’re going to get more interesting and experimental architecture at the highest end of the market, which we don’t really have yet,” the developer of BAM South and Domino, Two Trees’ Jed Walentas, told the Journal.

    [Source: WSJ]

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