New York grew by dint of ugly architecture. Every celebrated skyscraper rose amid bundles of mid-rise mediocrity. Each masterpiece-producing boom also threw off acres of stupefying repetition. So it’s hardly shocking that a decade of high-rise construction in Brooklyn has brought forth a parade of buildings that an iPhone app could spit out. The ax blade of residential high-rises that slices the borough drives from Brooklyn Bridge Park through Downtown, grazing Fort Greene and reaching into Prospect Heights.
Canyons of cheap window walls and protuberant air conditioners rise along Flatbush Avenue. Call it the Brooklyn Wedge, a nowhere that’s convenient to everywhere. It’s hard to fathom how sentient beings could have devoted so much time, money, and enthusiasm to producing such drear. Well, not that hard: Everyone follows the path of least resistance and then moves on to the next job. The result is an orgy of indifference.
When a newcomer does sport a dash of design, it only accentuates the sadness. Consider Brooklyn’s temporary tallest, 100 Willoughby Street, a.k.a. AVA DoBro, which SLCE Architects “designed” for AvalonBay. The architects speckled the façade of this monolithic mass in an assortment of blue panes, so that it looks as though the builders had raided an odd-lot store. Blue-glass patchwork has become a mystifying New York trend. Bernard Tschumi started it a decade ago with his bulbous Blue condo on the Lower East Side. Christian de Portzamparc followed up with his gaudy 57th Street supertall, One57. Here, it looks like a cheap knockoff of a bad idea.
The Wedge is the partially intended consequence of a plan to revive Downtown: A couple of decades ago, the area cleared out at the end of the business day and the full-time population numbered in the dozens. Then the Bloomberg administration rezoned Downtown in 2004, hoping to stimulate more office space. That didn’t materialize, but apartment towers did. […]