Archive for the 'cities' Category

European Vacation ’09

…or, what I’ve been up to this summer…

I’ve been neglect­ing the blog late­ly, though I am ten­ta­tive­ly sketch­ing out big plans for its future… some day, (prob­a­bly in the fall), I’ll get back to this.

But, in way of an update, Lisa final­ly post­ed all of her pho­tos from our lit­tle Euro­pean adven­ture a cou­ple of weeks ago, see below. 10 days with Jason and Cristen in Paris, Ams­ter­dam, the Rhineland, Bavaria and Berlin.

Berlin is an amaz­ing­ly weird place — I feel like we only scratched the sur­face, I must go back. 

My iPhone-only pho­tos are on flickr »

The New New Times Square

The New New Times Square

Looking north at 42nd Street, in Times Square.

A few col­leagues and I walked over to Times Square at lunch to check out the new Broadway—now shut off to cars, it’s anoth­er attempt by the city and the Bloomberg admin­is­tra­tion to reclaim the streets for pedestrians. 

The Times archi­tec­ture crit­ic Nico­lai Ourous­soff says:

Now, stand­ing in the mid­dle of Broad­way, you have the sense of being in a big pub­lic room, the tow­er­ing bill­boards and dig­i­tal screens press­ing in on all sides.

This adds to the inti­ma­cy of the plaza itself, which, how­ev­er unde­fined, can now func­tion as a gen­uine social space: peo­ple can mill around, ogle one anoth­er and gaze up at the city around them with­out the fear of being caught under the wheels of a cab. 

There’s a cou­ple of great slideshows, too. And, don’t miss Michael Crowley’s New York Mag­a­zine pro­file of the woman behind it all, NYC Trans­porta­tion Com­mis­sion­er Janette Sadik-Khan.

The Mostly True Story of Helvetica and the New York City Subway

The Most­ly True Sto­ry of Hel­veti­ca and the New York City Subway:

There is a com­mon­ly held belief that Hel­veti­ca is the sig­nage type­face of the New York City sub­way sys­tem, a belief rein­forced by Hel­veti­ca, Gary Hustwit’s pop­u­lar 2007 doc­u­men­tary about the type­face. But it is not true—or rather, it is only some­what true. Hel­veti­ca is the offi­cial type­face of the MTA today, but it was not the type­face spec­i­fied by Uni­mark Inter­na­tion­al when it cre­at­ed a new sig­nage sys­tem at the end of the 1960s.

r-train
R‑train icon, set in Helvetica and Standard.

I noticed this dis­crep­an­cy ear­li­er this year – I had to recre­ate some MTA sub­way icons for use on a project, and noticed that the R train map icon looked noth­ing like the Hel­veti­ca “R”. The MTA’s own web­site seems to be con­fused about the type used in the sys­tem icons, let alone its sta­tion signage.

Enter typog­ra­ph­er Paul Shaw, and his 10,000+ word piece on AIGA’s site. Did you now that Boston’s sub­way sig­nage sys­tem was the first to use Hel­veti­ca, with­out mod­i­fi­ca­tions? Ever curi­ous as to the process by which enam­el signs are made? Want to just look at pret­ty pic­tures of sub­way signs over the years? 

It’s a great his­to­ry, for fans of typog­ra­phy and the MTA.

What Could Possibly Make Someone Want to Leave New York and Move to Buffalo?

Buffalo #1
Lisa’s tattoo confirms that Buffalo is indeed #1.

New York mag­a­zine has an inter­est­ing fea­ture on New York­ers mov­ing to Buf­fa­lo, NY, the very city that Lisa and I were raised in and sub­se­quent­ly couldn’t wait to leave from after high school.

Some peo­ple will read this as a sto­ry of defeat. They will look at Her­beck and Cloyd and think, They came; they couldn’t cut it; good rid­dance. That’s also a famil­iar New York nar­ra­tive, one that’s espe­cial­ly com­fort­ing to those of us who stay and stick it out. Because, sure, stained glass and spare bed­rooms are nice and all, but no one moves to New York because they think they’re going to get a great bar­gain on an apart­ment. You move here because you want to live in New York City.

The writer then goes on to say that this is not a sto­ry of defeat, but rather an opportunity:

But New York, for all its mythol­o­gy, is no longer a fron­tier. Buf­fa­lo is a fron­tier. And when you think of the actu­al fron­tier, you’ll recall that no one ever packed up and moved West to a gold-rush town because they heard it had real­ly good local theater.

Um, okay… Truth is, I know more for­mer 716 area coders that are now in 212 or 718. But, it’s a pro­vok­ing premise for a city famous for lit­tle more than snow and four con­sec­u­tive failed Super­bowl bids.

Google Earth in 3D

Google Earth now has 3D-build­ings, and it’s real­ly fun to play with. Here is the Times Build­ing, where I work:

Times Building

A 3D rendering of the New York Times Building in Midtown, as shown in Google Earth.

If you have Google Earth installed, see it for your­self. Or, try land­ing on the deck of the Gold­en Gate Bridge, (just zoom in).

There seems to be data for a lot of cities, includ­ing my home town of Buf­fa­lo, and for­mer home of Boston.

Carroll Gardens Featured on Gridskipper

Grid­skip­per put togeth­er a nice fea­ture on our neigh­bor­hood in Brook­lyn, includ­ing a snarky comparison:

Car­roll Gar­dens fea­tured on Gridskipper
Car­roll Gar­dens is quaint, and for those in love with the West Vil­lage but who sim­ply can’t afford to live there, it will do.

I’m not sure that I agree with this – we chose to live in Brook­lyn over Man­hat­tan, and I would argue that the neigh­bor­hoods to the north (Cob­ble Hill and Boerum Hill) are prob­a­bly more fit­ting equiv­a­lents. Also, with few excep­tions, Car­roll Gar­dens is still very much a fam­i­ly neigh­bor­hood. Sure, it might be chang­ing, but take a walk down our street dur­ing the day, and you’re going to see a lot of old men who’ve lived there for 50 years, as well as kids play­ing on the side­walk. Err, maybe that is what the West Vil­lage is like.

Still, can’t deny that Car­roll Gar­dens is awe­some, and rel­a­tive­ly afford­able, con­sid­er­ing the restau­rant and bar options – we rarely make it into the city on weekends.

[via]

Con­tin­ue read­ing ‘Car­roll Gar­dens Fea­tured on Gridskipper’

Buffalo Central Terminal Update

Chuck Maley's Central Terminal picturesA while back, I post­ed about a piece of archi­tec­tur­al won­der­ment lying van­dal­ized and dor­mant in Buffalo—the old Cen­tral Ter­mi­nal. It’s a beau­ti­ful Deco train sta­tion from the 1920s, plopped into an oth­er­wise unex­cep­tion­al sub­ur­ban neighborhood.

At the time the sta­tion was built, Buf­fa­lo was still an indus­tri­al and cul­tur­al cen­ter, with a pop­u­la­tion over one-half mil­lion. It was sec­ond only to Chica­go for its tan­gling rail net­work. How­ev­er, by the late 1970s, both the city and the sta­tion had seen bet­ter days. The sta­tion was board­ed up, and the trains instead stopped at a new, strip-mall like park­ing-lot sta­tion not far away.

Well, there is some good news… it seems that some peo­ple do care about pre­serv­ing the city’s her­itage. Despite its van­dal­ized and trashed inte­ri­or, the build­ing is draw­ing crowds—including some Cana­di­an urban explor­ers.

What I love about struc­tures like the Cen­tral Ter­mi­nal is that they were built for the pub­lic to use. It’s absolute­ly unthink­able to imag­ine pri­vate cor­po­ra­tions build­ing such pub­lic spaces today—I think those years have passed, (as have the years of ridicu­lous­ly cheap immi­grant labor).

Here’s hop­ing there is a devel­op­er out there with deep pock­ets and a cre­ative will.

The Cen­tral Ter­mi­nal at a glance:

  • The Cen­tral Ter­mi­nal opened four months before the Wall Street crash of 1929
  • Designed to han­dle an antic­i­pat­ed Buf­fa­lo pop­u­la­tion of 1.5 mil­lion, it cost $14 mil­lion to build
  • The 17-sto­ry office tow­er stands 271 feet high
  • The sta­tion closed in Octo­ber 1979 after years of dwin­dling rail pas­sen­ger service
  • A 1969 study esti­mat­ed it would cost $54 mil­lion to restore it for office use, and $16.3 mil­lion to demol­ish it

The Hotel Commonwealth


Ken­more Square, Boston, has always had a rep­u­ta­tion for being a lit­tle bit seedy—much the way Times Square used to be. It boasts a major Sub­way inter­change, the best Ball­park in the Amer­i­can League, if not all of base­ball, and it used to be home to a diverse group of small busi­ness­es and restaurants.

When I first moved to Ken­more Square, in 1996, there was a Methadone clin­ic, a punk-rock venue called the Rathskeller, a late-night restau­rant called Deli-haus, a grit­ty cof­fee house called Fuel, and a bunch of oth­er busi­ness­es housed in the clus­ter of Brow­stones on the oppo­site side of the Square. In 2003, chalk these land­marks into a new chap­ter of Lost Boston.

When Boston Uni­ver­si­ty pro­posed bull­doz­ing much of the south side of the square, and replac­ing the cen­tu­ry-old brown­stones with a “Euro­pean-style” hotel, city and com­mu­ni­ty lead­ers large­ly sup­port­ed the idea… large­ly, I sus­pect, because BU was will­ing to pay gen­er­ous­ly to relo­cate affect­ed busi­ness­es with neigh­bor­hood asso­ci­a­tion ties, such as Cornwall’s Pub. Also, the uni­ver­si­ty is giv­ing mil­lions to upgrade the Sub­way sta­tion and traf­fic con­fig­u­ra­tion in the Square.

Whether or not you iden­ti­fy with my bemoan­ing the loss of a funky piece of an oth­er­wise bor­ing city, what is not in ques­tion is the pub­lic reac­tion when the work­ers final­ly unveiled the facade. For a hotel look­ing to project Con­ti­nen­tal lux­u­ry and flair, it looks like a repro­duc­tion on the back lot at Uni­ver­sal Stu­dios, or, per­haps, Main Street USA, Dis­ney­land. Tacky, cheap, and an insult to a city with tru­ly excep­tion­al architecture.

I am not, I think, an elit­ist when it comes to archi­tec­ture… I think clas­si­cist ideals of style and mate­ri­als are prefer­able to 90% of all avant-garde rub­bish of the past 50 years. But, BU and the devel­op­ers cheat­ed by try­ing to copy the style of the French Sec­ond Empire, while using mate­ri­als com­mon on a Wal-Mart job site. Instead of lime­stone, let’s use fiber­glass. Brick too expen­sive? Sub­sti­tute fiber­glass for the real thing. And, the dorm­ers can just be cut-outs—I mean, who looks that close­ly, right?

The fact is, this hotel would look pret­ty good from your car on the Inter­state at 75 MPH, if it were locat­ed out in the sprawl belt of I‑495 and 128. It’s car­toon col­or and fea­tures would blur from the high­way strip. But, this hotel is in the heart of the city, with thou­sands of pedes­tri­ans walk­ing by each day. And it looks Mick­ey Mouse, com­pared with the sur­round­ing buildings.

The pho­tos I took, unfor­tu­nate­ly, fail to show how bad the facade real­ly is. Trust me, it looks as if they were try­ing to save a few bucks… which is pre­cise­ly not the image you’re going for in a 4‑star hotel that wants to charge hun­dreds of dol­lars a night. Appar­ent­ly, BU and the devel­op­ers are going to spend $2 mil­lion to “fix” the facade. Good luck.

Biography of an Architectural Icon

coverI start­ed read­ing this book, Divid­ed We Stand, a biog­ra­phy of the build­ing of the World Trade Center.

Writ­ten before the col­lapse on Sep­tem­ber 11, though informed by the ear­li­er bomb­ing in 1993, the author offers con­text and cul­tur­al com­ment on what was arguably the world’s most famous build­ing (were they one or two build­ings?). What is espe­cial­ly shock­ing is that not only was it one of the last cat­a­clysmic ‘urban-renew­al’ mega-schemes held over from the 60s, (it was com­plet­ed in 1972), that elim­i­nat­ed 16 blocks of low-income (though thriv­ing) com­mer­cial space, but also it was the largest gov­ern­ment-spon­sored real estate spec­u­la­tion in the his­to­ry of the world.

Man­aged by the Port Author­i­ty of NY & NJ, a dubi­ous orga­ni­za­tion, it was pitched as a ‘ver­ti­cal-port’, to replace the decay­ing ship­yards below, (which were trad­ed quid pro quo to NJ for their ‘ok’ to build the WTC). What it became, was a state-spon­sored play­thing for the Rock­e­feller broth­ers, (both Gov­er­nor Nel­son, and Chase Man­hat­tan CEO David). With mas­sive tax breaks for ten­ants, the city of New York lost mil­lions of dol­lars in tax rev­enue, and by the mid-1970s was bankrupt.

Pres­i­dent Ford, at first, decid­ed to let NY wal­low, but polit­i­cal pres­sure forced him to orga­nize a bailout. Fun­ny. How could you con­sid­er let­ting America’s first city implode, and expect to get elect­ed as America’s first citizen?

hi! Detroit Sucks. Big Suprise.

hi! Detroit sucks. big suprise. my aunt has one of those black Dells that that dumb blonde kid on TV is always telling peo­ple they’re going to get “it”… and she has a cable modem. so hot.

The cig­a­r­rette smoke here can be cut with a wed­ding cake knife. In fact, i’m doing that now… wav­ing, and wav­ing a knife around so as to breathe.

UPDATE: I don’t appre­ci­ate the ras­cist com­ments, so I am fil­ter­ing them now.

I will allow neg­a­tive or dis­re­spec­tive com­ments, but cer­tain kinds of lan­guage are out-of-bounds.

Play nice & thanks,
Ned

Giving Back

Ani DiFran­co recent­ly donat­ed $40,000 to her alma mat­ter, Visu­al and Per­form­ing Arts High School in Buf­fa­lo, and to oth­er Buf­fa­lo pub­lic school arts programs.

Trains are better than Cars

buff-central-term-2.jpg
Cen­tral Sta­tion, Buf­fa­lo, NY, cir­ca 1930.

Presley’s sis­ter Kel­ly was in town this past week­end, and she left yes­ter­day on the Amtrak train from Back Bay Sta­tion, which got me think­ing about train sta­tions and trains in gen­er­al. Every­one in these New Urban­ist books that I read can’t fath­om how Amer­i­ca end­ed up wed­ded to the auto­mo­bile, while the Euro­peans remain con­tent­ed with trains.

I think it’s a sim­ple answer: after the war, we just could. It was the thing to do, and we had the resources. But, isn’t there some­thing won­der­ful about trains? And more impor­tant­ly, big city train sta­tions? Grand Cen­tral in Man­hat­tan is gor­geous. Mod­erin­ists moan on about how style should be down-played because it is the taste of eco­nom­ic elites, but I don’t care if putting a build­ing like that up was a cap­i­tal­ist show of wealth and power—it had beau­ty, craft­man­ship and it was a place where peo­ple of all races and incomes passed through. They destroyed Penn Sta­tion in the six­ties to put up Madi­son Square Gar­den. big whoop. If any­thing, MSG is more cap­i­tal­ist-mind­ed than the build­ing it replaced.

So, it brings me around to Buf­fa­lo and Kelly’s depar­ture… Ear­li­er in this cen­tu­ry, Buf­fa­lo actu­al­ly was in the top 5 for most rail­road track—Buffalo had indus­try, and it was locat­ed on the impor­tant route between new york and chica­go. The city built some beau­ti­ful train sta­tions (sub­se­quent­ly demol­ished), who’s archi­tec­ture seems won­der­ful­ly as grand as Grand Cen­tral itself. The last remain­ing sta­tion, Cen­tral Ter­mi­nal, still stands on the East Side, though it’s falling apart. I wish to God the city could find some new use for the facility—problem is, it is locat­ed in the most eco­nom­i­cal­ly depressed area of the city.

Boston as a Blueprint

The new Plan­ning news feed at the right of this page is already reap­ing inter­est­ing rewards—among the inter­est­ing links, an arti­cle that dis­cuss­es Boston and it’s neigh­bor­hoods. May­or Meni­no has made neigh­bor­hood-based com­mer­cial devel­op­ment a pri­or­i­ty over the past decade or so, and it’s just the kind of thing that makes eco­nom­ic sense. In award­ing grants to indi­vid­ual small busi­ness own­ers, (most of which is fed­er­al mon­ey any­way), for lit­tle improve­ments such as new store facades, Boston has cul­ti­vat­ed a neigh­bor­hood approach to devel­op­ment. Occa­sion­al­ly, big “urban-renew­al” projects, such as the new Ritz-Carl­ton mon­stros­i­ty in Chi­na­town, do get built, but usu­al­ly they include some kind of mixed-use, (even if that mixed-use is upscale in this very work­ing-class neighborhood).

It’s nev­er been a very sexy thing to talk about, but the suc­cess­es of this pro­gram can’t be ignored, and many cities are start­ing to emu­late Meni­no. Buf­fa­lo is try­ing to cul­ti­vate this, through the cre­ation and encour­age­ment of city neigh­bor­hoods such as the “Pan-Am Dis­trict” around Elm­wood Ave in North Buf­fa­lo. Even pri­vate col­lege cam­pus­es such as Can­i­sius are con­tribut­ing to the qual­i­ty of their sur­round­ing neigh­bor­hoods by pro­vid­ing low-inter­est mort­gages to pro­fes­sors and staff, to encour­age them to live near the schools. Now, answer me this: Why is the major state school, SUNY at Buf­fa­lo, locat­ed in Amherst (not buffalo)?

What Buffalo Was, and What it Should Be


If you’ve talked with me in the last few months, you know that I’ve tak­en an inter­est in Urban Plan­ning, and more specif­i­cal­ly those char­ac­ter­is­tics that make a good neigh­bor­hood and city. I don’t know why this sub­ject has peaked my inter­est, con­sid­er­ing I used to be in awe of places like Epcot and I grew up not far from strip-malls. But, I am deeply con­cerned about that place where I grew up, because the city of Buf­fa­lo is rot­ting at it’s core, while the end­less devel­op­ment of phar­ma­cy mini-malls, park­ing lots, and cul-de-sacs push­es far­ther out into the countryside.

It used to be that Tran­sit Road was a mark­er or sorts—suburban devel­op­ment fell off notably in the town of Clarence. But now, Clarence and Lan­cast­er are becom­ing the newest sprawl sub­urbs. Hous­ing devel­op­ment is get­ting less and less dense, tak­ing up more and more land, and as a result, weak­en­ing com­mu­ni­ty ties. The goal in the Buf­fa­lo area these days, is to earn enough to “get yours”—which means a big house in the mid­dle of nowhere, with lousy archi­tec­ture, a big front yard, and curv­ing streets that don’t con­nect to oth­er devel­op­ments. You can’t walk to a cor­ner store, much less to work or school.

This, of course, means that cars must be used for any­thing and every­thing in Buffalo’s sub­urbs, and increas­ing­ly so in these new sub­urbs. Grow­ing up, I could walk or ride my bike to a cor­ner store, a super­mar­ket, a pizze­ria, a k‑mart and a bagel shop. For kids grow­ing up in Loch Lea and oth­er devel­op­ments fur­ther out, this is sim­ply not an option—a ride from mom or dad is required, and an (unhealthy) depen­dence is born. Also, you spend much of your ear­ly teenage years look­ing for old­er friends, or pin­ing for that 16th birth­day, when mom and dad will pro­vide you with a car. There is a sense of enti­tle­ment that comes in such a place.

Buf­fa­lo, how­ev­er, wasn’t always so bleak. The Buf­fa­lo of my Grandmother’s youth was a vibrant and busy city. Look at some of these pho­tographs… Street­cars zipped up and down major avenues, auto­mo­biles co-exist­ed with pedes­tri­ans, com­mer­cial streets had first-floor store­fronts with apart­ments above, and you knew your neigh­bor, butch­er and neigh­bor­hood cop. I don’t want to sen­ti­men­tal­ize what was, but I think peo­ple under­stood that there was an art to build­ing neighborhoods—an art that seems to have been lost in post-war, post-indus­tri­al Buf­fa­lo. The pow­er­ful sub­ur­ban devel­op­ers like Ciminel­li, don’t build per­ma­nent places to live. They think that there is no mon­ey to be made in tra­di­tion­al (that is to say, mixed-use) neigh­bor­hoods. Every­thing is this set-back-from-the-street, bas­tardized mod­ernist, flat-roof, sin­gle-floor, hor­i­zon­tal mon­stros­i­ty, with 5 park­ing spots out front for every 1 customer.

I know I’m tak­ing hyper­bol­ic license here, but I do it only because the pre­vail­ing assump­tions are so ingrained and accept­ed that you almost need to shock peo­ple to wake them up.

We’ve been liv­ing in the age of the auto­mo­bile. Traf­fic engi­neers say we need to widen roads and inter­sec­tions to decrease traf­fic and increase traf­fic vol­ume. Every major study of road­way “improve­ments” shows that more lanes = more cars. By widen­ing a road like Tran­sit, you are actu­al­ly cre­at­ing more traf­fic in the long-run. Even Robert Moses real­ized this in 1939, when traf­fic con­ges­tion cropped up on his high­ways where there was pre­vi­ous­ly no prob­lem. You induce traf­fic, by build­ing more lanes. And, these wide inter­sec­tions you see on Tran­sit and oth­er roads, are less safe than nar­row­er, more tra­di­tion­al inter­sec­tions. Here in Boston, despite our rep­u­ta­tion for crazy dri­ving, there are rarely any acci­dents at all, due to our small blocks, odd inter­sec­tions and lack of sprawl.

Still, there is hope. I think the eco­nom­ic pres­sures that 50 years of this kind of devel­op­ment has wrought on Buf­fa­lo is start­ing to change people’s minds about liv­ing and work­ing in close prox­im­i­ty. I hope envi­ron­men­tal, and eco­nom­ic real­i­ties force the city and it’s coun­ty of sub­urbs to draw a line in the sand (and the geog­ra­phy), and say enough is enough. It’s not about Growth vs. anti-Growth. It’s about Smart Growth. Banks, devel­op­ers and city & town offi­cials need to be shown that it is prefer­able to ditch this fast-decay­ing sub­ur­ban strip-mall way of doing things. If we are going to do this, the state needs to step in and set up stronger region­al gov­ern­ment. Many peo­ple fear this, as being ‘more gov­ern­ment’, when in actu­al­i­ty it could save mon­ey by elim­i­nat­ing redun­dant services.

But there is pow­er­ful resis­tance to any kind of region­al planning.

Jane Jacobs Changed My Life… or, Modernists Should Die

What makes a good neigh­bor­hood? I’ve start­ed read­ing every­thing I can get my hands on regard­ing urban plan­ning and issues sur­round­ing sprawl, and I think it’s so inspir­ing that Jane Jacobs had it all fig­ured out in 1961. I think it would not be mag­nan­i­mous to say that she saved Green­wich Vil­lage from becom­ing anoth­er Robert Moses high­way. Check out this dis­cus­sion about Jane’s life and the state of urban plan­ning. (Real Audio)

As a design­er, I’ve always loved mod­ernist design — it’s big, it’s human­ist in the sense that it is utopi­an and egal­i­tar­i­an, and it shows off our won­der­ful tech­nol­o­gy. Look at Empire Plaza in Albany, NY, and you can’t help but think that we are capa­ble of amaz­ing things. How­ev­er, this HUGE plaza is most­ly use­less, except on sun­ny days dur­ing noon and 1pm, when work­ers might stroll out­side for fresh air. Nev­er­mind that there aren’t any delis or con­ve­nience stores with­in a 5 minute walk. Also, think of a place like this in the evening, or at night. Dead. I’ve been there! Prob­a­bly unsafe. But the 19th cen­tu­ry State Capi­tol is won­der­ful, and human-scaled. One might imag­ine shops or restau­rants on the sur­round­ing streets. It’s dig­ni­fied, and wor­thy of a civic build­ing. I think our post-60s mis­trust of gov­ern­ment makes us think that spend­ing the mon­ey and time to build last­ing mon­u­ments to pub­lic life is some­how waste­ful or bad. Albany Dan’s own neigh­bor­hood (not far from Empire Plaza) is a tes­ta­ment to How We Used to Do Things. It’s a mish­mash of income lev­els and uses. It’s won­der­ful too.

Urban renew­al is a fuck­ing sham. No news there. Look at Boston’s own place of civic activ­i­ty, city hall. Mod­ernist archi­tects can argue all they want about the ‘great­ness’ of build­ings and plazas like this, but I doubt any­one but a few intel­lec­tu­als actu­al­ly appre­ci­ate it as such. (Myself includ­ed) It flies in the face of hun­dreds of years of prece­dent and exper­tise, and yet we call it ‘bril­liant’. Lis­ten to the archi­tec­t’s own words:

Kall­mann: ‘We dis­trust and have react­ed against an archi­tec­ture that is absolute, unin­volved and abstract. We have moved towards an archi­tec­ture that is spe­cif­ic and con­crete, involv­ing itself with the social and geo­graph­ic con­text, the pro­gram, and meth­ods of con­struc­tion, in order to pro­duce a build­ing that exists strong­ly and irrev­o­ca­bly, rather than an uncom­mit­ted abstract struc­ture that could be any place and, there­fore, like mod­ern man’ with­out iden­ti­ty or presence.”

Does the build­ing and plaza cre­ate a good urban space? nope. The lan­guage itself is specif­i­cal­ly craft­ed to sound unin­tel­li­gi­ble, and to ele­vate the archi­tect to the sta­tus of some Ayn Ran­di­an demi-God. Even the weird geom­e­try of the plaza is psy­cho­log­i­cal­ly unset­tling, not to men­tion what I feel from the build­ing itself. There is some­thing pro­found­ly anti-social in a build­ing that is set back from the street so far with that much brick. The ‘style’, (if the mod­ernists let you call it that), is Bru­tal­ist Mod­ern, for christ’s sake.