Sunday, April 27, 2008
Urbanism and An Architecture of Place
CitiField has no city, and the Metropolitans have no metropolis.
OVER AT DESIGN OBSERVER, the great Michael Bierut wrote a good piece on baseball parks that I thought was a little too quick to equate traditional design with "nostalgia" while asking the question, "Why is it so hard to build a baseball stadium that looks like it belongs in the 21st century?"
In the comments, I said,
I suspect you're trolling here, but I'll bite a little bit.
Why are you assuming that the architecture of the 21st Century should be the same as the architecture called for by 19th century architects like Frank Lloyd Wright and Mies Van Der Rohe?
They wanted a Zeitgeist architecture, an architecture of time, which they tied to the expression of technology. The architecture needed today, I believe is the architecture of community and place. And sustainability.
There was a time when Modernism accurately expressed our culture, but that time is past. It is now nothing more than an expression of style, and that expression is increasingly ego-centric, anti-urban and unsustainable.
We need buidings that add up to the creation of good places. Extensive studies by Chris Alexander, Space Syntax and many others increasingly show that the qualities that do that are timeless and universal.
My standard for judging CitiField is not whether or not it's nostalgic, but whether or not it's a good place. That's determined by many qualities including the spatial experience, the proportions of the facades, the quality of the materials, etc.
Fenway is the best park because it's the best spatial experience, not because it's the oldest park. It has a sense of enclosure that the modem columnless stadiums will never have. Google "Phil Bess" and "Save Fenway Park" to read more about that.
Wilpon told the architects of CitiField to make it like Ebbets Field, where the Dodgers played. But then he put the field in the middle of a parking lot. As a Brooklyn boy, he should have known better.
Ebbets Field was firmly embedded in the urban fabric of Brooklyn. The team got its name because their fans had to "dodge" streetcars to get to the field. But CitiField has no city, and the Metropolitans have no metropolis. They should play on the Atlantic Yards site, where there are 5 or 6 subway lines and the LIRR. Their urban locations are part of what make Fenway and Wrigley the two best fields.
Someone mentioned that the old Busch stadium sat well in downtown St. Louis. That's right. And of all the concrete "donut" stadiums built in the 1960s, it's the one that had the spatial intimacy and sensitive renovations to make it a great place to watch a game.
As I said, I'm talking about an architecture of place, not an architecture of time.
Posted by: john massengale on April 18, 2008 04:51 PM
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» PS: Urbanism from Veritas et Venustas
ON MY WAY TO BEDFORD, I drove by the the new Yankee Stadium. It's next to the old stadium (ruined by blind engineers in the early 1970s), and unlike CitiField, is urban. Down the hill from the Grand Concourse, next to the subway, the new stadium usuall... [Read More]
Tracked on Apr 27, 2008 9:04:26 PM
"They should play at Atlantic Yards..." Now THERE's a display of ignorance! That intersection has the worst traffic in Brooklyn. It was considered as a new home for the Dodgers and killed by Robert Moses who said that anything like that would cause a "...Great Wall of China of traffic" stretching from the East River to the Nassau border. And it's only gotten worse since then. Ratner's arena was a stupid placement plan that ignored every precept of urban planning. And I don't see much better thinking in the above post.
Posted by: SmithBrotherJoe at Apr 27, 2008 8:21:16 PM
Moses also wanted to run a highway through Washington Square and killed the South Bronx when he did ram a highway through there, the ugliest thing in New York.
In other words, I'm not impressed by Moses's views on cars. We can't afford all that pollution in Brooklyn and the atmosphere, and soon won't be able to afford the gas either. The idea is that if people walk and take the subways and train they don't have to drive.
Posted by: john massengale at Apr 27, 2008 8:43:35 PM
Re: "They should plan at Atlantic Yards". You clearly have not completed your recovery; please visit our neighborhood and then repeat your 12 steps. Bringing a push load of 20,000 let alone 50,000 fans to the middle of brownstone Brooklyn is exactly the opposite of an architecture of community and place. And you wouldn't keep many more people from driving through the most congested intersection in Brooklyn. There are other areas of the city, well served by transit, that may want a huge sporting venue if it wouldn't destroy an existing, vibrant, low/mid scale mixed-use community. And if there aren't - don't build it. An arena (or stadium) is not a prerequisite for a great place. Also, you miss the point of the previous comment, which was that EVEN Moses knew that the traffic would choke this area. See http://brooklynviews.blogspot.com/2006/06/great-man-theory-of-architecture.html
Posted by: Jonathan at Apr 30, 2008 8:42:17 PM
I've responded at the post you cite on your blog.
Have you been to games at Wrigley and Fenway? They suffer from traffic less than Yankee Stadium and Shea, because they offer urban alternatives. Wrigley makes Wrigleyville one of Chicago's great neighborhoods, and where was more loved in Brooklyn than Ebbet's Field? Unfortunately the O'Malleys and lunkheads like Moses didn't understand the problems cars were going to bring to the city.
Posted by: john massengale at Apr 30, 2008 10:39:53 PM
No, I haven't been to Wrigley or Fenway. But a quick look at the discussion on-line (see http://www.spudart.org/blogs/randomthoughts_comments/A340_0_3_0_C/ and http://www.ballparksofbaseball.com/directionsparking/fenway.htm ) suggests not everyone is as sanguine about the traffic in those areas as you are. But you don't live there, do you? The sense I get is that those areas are partly defined by the huge influx of people for games, people coming by all available modes including cars. Those moving to the area now should know what they're in for - like people moving to live near Times Square here. But surrounding the Brooklyn site are fully realized, built-out at a wonderfull scale, complete neighborhoods. Yes there are a few sites within the project limits that could take denser development. But the worst idea about the proposed project, the most non-conforming use, could never comply with zoning, and the biggest threat to the existing quality of life in the surrounding communities is the arena. It is only proposed because of political expedience, to get the support of nostalgic sport fans and the (soon to be former) Borough President for the entire titanic but tenuous progect. Please don't let your enthusiasm for the game blind you to what's really going on here.
Thanks for the forum, this is easier than my own blog.
Posted by: Jonathan at May 1, 2008 10:27:57 PM