NEW YORK—Brooklynites have been generally welcoming of the Barclays Center, new home turf for the Brooklyn Nets; but the building’s distinctive architectural design has elicited mixed opinions.
The Barclays Center is the first major sports and entertainment indoor arena built in New York since Madison Square Garden, which opened in 1968.
The 19,000-seat arena is essentially a basketball stadium that also operates as a concert facility. Its location at the crossroads of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues is accessible from the B, D, N, Q, R, 2, 3, 4, and No. 5 subway lines.
Some people like the rustic look, while others think it is ugly; some say they think it is too heavy and perhaps that it should be more uplifting. Another local was hoping for a more futuristic exterior style, with more glass.
“I think it’s a good thing for Brooklyn, in terms of the atmosphere, not to mention the gentrification for Brooklyn, it’s bringing a mixture of everyone into Brooklyn. I lived in Brooklyn for 25 years and this is the best I’ve seen it, it’s actually getting better,” said Curt Thomas, 44, who works in the area.
The younger generation who tend to be more adaptable to change, view the new arrival with interest. “It was really nice seeing it be built. … It’s a big deal for Brooklyn,” said Tiffany Burt, 23, an actress, dancer, and technology worker.
The role of the building will certainly make it a community hub for Brooklyn as the basketball season draws near.
“The enthusiasm around the Nets is palpable on the downtown streets of Brooklyn. With the promise of Brooklyn’s first home coming since 1957 coming this fall, it offers infectious excitement,” said Tucker Reed, head of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership.
The stadium floor sits 30 feet below street level. A live scoreboard, at 35 feet above the court in the center of the stadium is visible at street level to passersby curious to know the game scores.
Architecture mirrors cultural environs
The building is designed to suit the target audience of basketball followers and the culture that surrounds the NBA. The interior evokes an evening setting, with darker tones and futuristic lighting that waves along the ceiling. Jay Z opened the center to sellout crowds for eight performances Sept. 28–Oct. 6.
An exit from the Atlantic subway station delivers basketball and concert patrons directly inside Barclays Center.
The first view is a large overhanging structure protruding from the building and forming on oculus (a large whole) that acts as a kind of skylight. The space welcomes visitors and provides a meeting place for locals departing and entering the station.
From within the foyer one can look up through the oculus to see the landmark Williamsburg Bank Building Clock Tower that orients people within Brooklyn. Fitting in with area architecture is key to the design.
In terms of the color and the texture it certainly relates to the brownstones in the area, with terracotta coloring, said Jonathan Mallie, principal of SHoP Architects, the firm that completed the Barclays Center design in collaboration with Aecom under the umbrella of Developer Forest City Ratner.
He continued, “It’s Brooklyn, we’re over a rail yard, there’s the Navy Yards near by, so there’s a relationship between the toughness and grittiness of that and the contextual of the area.”
Mallie described how the three bands of rusted steel panels break down the scale of the building to create a horizontal projection.
From certain vantage points around the area, the center sits just above the four- and five-story brownstones. When new buildings are built around it, the scale of everything is going to change, he said. “It’s going to diminish the size of the arena,” Mallie said.
Entertainment acts that will play at the center in the near term include Barbara Streisand, Justin Bieber, and Andrea Bocelli. On the sporting front, boxing, gymnastics, and Disney on Ice are expected.
The first NBA game will see the Nets face the Knicks on Nov. 1, which may leave Brooklyn Knicks fans in a dilemma choosing which Brooklyn team to root for.
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