Does Williamsburg need monumental buildings?

December 6, 2013 Updated: April 24, 2016

 I was enjoying dinner with my friend Dom last Friday night and reaching for a pierogi at Williamsburg’s traditional Polish S & B Restaurant when he casually asked: “Do you think New York still needs monumental buildings?” Dom,  Founder of Made in Brooklyn Tours, and a huge Brooklyn enthusiast was referring to the new buildings cropping up in Williamsburg.

Even after dinner, the question lingered in my head. Architecture and society have always acted as catalysts for each other. Architecture has the power and potential to shape and influence society and the opposite is true too. So in a neighborhood where “Do it your self-ers” and “Brooklyn Artisans” are creating micro-economies and shaping society, what effect will all this new architecture have?

 I’m referring of course, to the new Brooklyn waterfront development around the old Domino sugar refinery in Williamsburg. Compared to the adjacent 11-acre site and small scale buildings built throughout Brooklyn (on average no taller than 7 stories) this new development by SHoP’s architectural firm promises to be monumental.  And, honestly, a little exciting.

One tower is 598 feet tall, the next looks like two 40 story vertical Tetris bars bridged together, and the last resembles an upside down L resting on top an office building. 

But in an era of scientific, technological and engineering breakthroughs, why are we still using monumental buildings to define us?

After all, we did just stick a 408 Ft spire on top of the Freedom Tower so that New York would have the tallest building in the nation again.

What is exciting to me is seeing Brooklyn flourish. Brooklyn has always been a city (at one point in history several cities) with a rich history and legacy. But it hasn’t been until recently that that the general public was excited and curious enough to want and explore Brooklyn themselves.

And, with developments like the monumental Barclay’s center and condominiums like the Edge, which helped revamp business for the NY Water Taxi shuttling passengers from Brooklyn to Manhattan. One has to stop and think if architecture has role to play in Brooklyn’s popular development. And, if so, what exactly is in store for Brooklyn’s bustling neighborhoods like Williamsburg.