19 April 2007

The Eyesore of Union Street



The recent debate on Curbed.com about which of two new townhouses in Williamsburg was the ugliest got me thinking about which addresses might win the blue ribbon in my nabe, Carroll Gardens.

I didn't think for long. Since this boil on Union Street between Henry and Clinton erupted a year or so ago, there has been, to my mind, no contest for the CG uggo loving cup. Make this atrocity three times bigger and it might be crass and vulgar enough to earn a spot on the East Hampton beachfront. The design's utter disregard for the tone and style of the surrounding structures (mainly nice stately brownstones—you can see them in the picture below; the unattractive jobs on the left and right of the eyesore are not the norm) is representative of the egotism and thoughtlessness that marks so much of the developments in the city these days.

What were they after? They must think this mélange of piled-on geometrical forms is the height of modernist class. In reality, it looks like a whitewashed version of a Lego building my son might build. And get a load of the ludicrous opulence of the spiral staircase leading to the roof deck. Where do they think they are? What are they looking at up there? The BQE?



Locals still stop in front of this thing and gape in confusion and horror.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

stop hating

Brooks of Sheffield said...

Look below. Love Chumley's. Love the La Delice Pastry Shop. Love Lattacini Barese Salumeria. Love La Cote Basque. Love old signs, wooden telephone booths, love lots of stuff. Hate that building.

Anonymous said...

no, i'm with anonymous, you really are freaking out. i would hazard a guess that you are part of the same process of gentrification that made this building possible. there are many brooklyn neighborhoods where you could happily fetishize brownstones without the risk of the new.

Anonymous said...

union street gives some reason for hating these days -- see b/w smith and court. i live near the latest creation, which i can't quite hate, but don't want to like...325 or so. they built what's starting to be the equiv. of a double-wide trailer..

thanks for calling union to account.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, but I think the building on the right is 10x uglier than the modernist gone astray. I, personally, would be thrilled to have that roof deck and those large windows. Not a masterpiece, but airy and MUCH nicer than the trash next to it.

Anonymous said...

It has a place but not on that block or that neighborhood. Try Seattle.

carolita said...

I dunno, I like it. But then, fifteen years of living in historical garrets in Paris has left me favoring modernity. I think it's actually kind of pretty in a really simple way. I happen to hate brownstones. They're dark, too close to eachother in general, and I see nothing stately about them. They're stodgy, and they remind me of London, which I find pretty ugly. Nope, I will not hate this building. Variety is the spice of life.

Brooks of Sheffield said...

Seems this building elicits strong opinions on both sides of the arguments. Thanks for the feedback, guys. In response, I'll say that the building on the right is indeed ugly, too. But, in favoring dark brick, it at least made a half-assed attempt to fit in with the block. And for Anonymous #2, I'm not a born and bred Carroll Garderner, no, but I've been here 15 years, before the neighborhood was rediscovered and the boom began.

Serra said...

I agree that this is an eyesore, but what about that hideosity on the corner of Clinton and Second Place (or is it First?)? The Brownstowne that was expanded and stretched with garage in the back...ick.

Anonymous said...

I drive and walk by here a lot and until this picture never actually noticed the building. The driveway actually blends in with the next few driveways on that street. I don't think it stands out too much, although I do think the building materials are a bit strange. I'll have to take a closer look next time I'm on Union.

ex-redhooky said...

Look, what that building replaced wasn't exactly anything particularly historical. Its not like they tore down the house of Winston Churchill's mother (just a couple of blocks away, in case ya didn't know!) to put that thing up. And to be honest, it's not that bad. I always thought it looked kind of Mediterranean... actually reminded me of building I saw in Greece, Cyprus or Israel.

Anonymous said...

I don't think it's that bad. That part of Union is a mess anyone and this adds at least something of interest. The often mentioned brownstown with alien addition at 3rd Place and Clinton is much worse.

Brooks of Sheffield said...

Well, the verdict of the people is in and the verdict is: "not that bad." The building is not that bad. Could be worse. Sadly, in this day and age in NYC of public resignation in the face of feckless, inspiration-free development, "not that bad" is a fate we can apparently live with. But, if you let the "not that bad"s pile up, you very soon live in a city that looks "not that good."

Anonymous said...

I hate change. Every building should be a shabily built fake brownstone. In my day a brownstone cost a quarter. All of this natural lighting and utilizing roof space is bunch of foolishness.

Anonymous said...

One thing I have always loved about New york is that you can be whoever you want to be and dress/look however you want to look and no one cares. How is it then that, in New York, the discussion as to what constitutes good architecture has been hijacked by those whose first question is "does it fit in?" I am all for preserving great, historic architecture. But, I cannot stand the knee-jerk reaction for preserving every old building just because they are old nor the idea that new buildings must be built "in context" with old buildings nearby. The result has been what I often call "Epcot Center Architecture" or even worse "architectural gray matter." The very fact that one poster was willing to give that ugly building to the right a pass simply because it was built using red brick demonstrates the problem. That building says nothing more than "I hope you won't notice me." It is "gray matter" and, if this is what is acceptable in order to keep things within "context," this city's architectural future is indeed bleak. Apparently, for some, architectural context is a function of color and/or building materials, rather than an assessment of the quality of architectural expression. That new building is a breath of fresh air and probably a great place to live.

Brooks of Sheffield said...

Actually, I'd say that taking the surrounding area into consideration and calibrating how your buidling will fit into it, is one of the primary duties of architects. That can mean blending in, or it can mean complimenting the neighboring buildings. And, sorry, but the idea that the house is great-looking inside has nothing to do with anything. I bet those apartment complexes built in the Soviety bloc countries has really smokin' kitchens!

Anonymous said...

I like it. It's 'inspiringly' different.
Get over yourself.

Brooks of Sheffield said...

I'm glad the building has so many friends. The ugly kid on the block always needs all the allies he can get.