A Nets Arena on the Cheap

There's a guilty pleasure in an artistic review that is wholly unrestrained in its negativity. Unfortunately for the New Jersey Nets, their latest Brooklyn arena design is feeling that very sting.

Remember when the Nets were telling everyone they were going to play in a Frank Gehry building that may be the most beautiful arena in the world? Difficult times call for difficult measures, and The New York Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff has the drawings of a new cheaper stadium design, from the firm Ellerbe Becket. To my eyes, the drawings make it look more or less like a regular stadium. Ouroussoff is not wishy-washy about what he sees:

A colossal, spiritless box, it would fit more comfortably in a cornfield than at one of the busiest intersections of a vibrant metropolis. Its low-budget, no-frills design embodies the crass, bottom-line mentality that puts personal profit above the public good. If it is ever built, it will create a black hole in the heart of a vital neighborhood.

But what's most offensive about the design is the message it sends to New Yorkers. Architecture, we are being told, is something decorative and expendable, a luxury we can afford only in good times, or if we happen to be very rich. What's most important is to build, no matter how thoughtless or dehumanizing the results. It is the kind of logic that kills cities -- and that has been poisoning this one for decades.

Ouroussoff continues:

A massive vaulted shed that rests on a masonry base, the arena is as glamorous as a storage warehouse. ... Building this monstrosity at such a critical urban intersection would be deadly. Clearly, the city would be better off with nothing.