As a layperson, the concept is poetic and the images, eye candy but in theory..such a program makes little sense. Big box retail spaces are located on isolated tracts for very important reasons; economics and legality issues. They want to remain aloof and not attached to a program or a larger composition. Metaphorically they possess the inherent objecthood of a monochromatic painting, as opposed to a framed composition of various forms.
The idea of the transparent skin of the anchor store makes little sense for a variety of reasons. Formally it may be engaging, and would allow consumers at the "entourage" of stores surrounding it to see in. It would also have the reverse effect. Shoppers in the anchor store would be distracted by the wares of the surrounding stores and discover a potential sale elsewhere. For this reason, "big boxes" are intentionally like casinos.....they want to contain your gaze..and freedom of choice.
While the architects are interested in subverting conventional tropes, and providing Brooklyn with architecture seemingly inspired by hip-hop, mixing/sampling...I think in the end it is just shallow teen fandom instead of something provocative.....The answer still does lie with the Gowanus as a means to this end but in a very different direction.
I would love to see the absence of big box retailers from student projects. I didn't see anything in the project about Brooklyn Brewery, Gorilla Coffee, Bierkraft, Farmers markets, P.S. Bookstore or any other actually interesting or innovative forms of commerce- let alone architecture- on the list. Yes, architects can think like developers, but developers are assholes.
Seems like the students have dreams of making big money on a concept development team at Walmart (or Richard Meier), where exploitation of untapped resources is a main goal. An design intending "to produce imagery [as] a mixture of things taken directly from the city in which [it is] dealing" should actually include imagery from the city in which it's dealing. Scheming a way for Walmart to access the Brooklyn market seems pointless as there is already a living city here with no need to be infected by the Walmart disease. Gowanus should be fertilized with Brooklyn compost rather than injected with high-fructose corn syrup.
As far as the architecture presented, what I mainly see are colored rectangles and little else. Maybe next time the students should actually do research some place other than the TV or the internet. Developing an "Urban scheme by inserting a decidedly non-urban, normative building type into a dense, vertical city space" is kind of like sticking a square peg into a round hole. The round hole's going to get bruised when the peg's hammered in. It just doesn't fit.
I think the two above comments are overly critical and not taking (at the least) what the students offered at face value.
Or perhaps their critique is that there is only face and no value?
Which i think would be disingenuous at best.
While the project certainly embraces shopping, consumerism and bog box retailing it mixes it in such a way as to provide an interesting alternative to a purely big box (sitting in an asphalt sea) formulation. They have tried to propose a creative solution to the development of the locale, which at this point of already existing Ikea and Lowes, is a fait accompli.
This always makes me laugh, and even though we haven't see a lot of it here, it's more and more common as these other design blogs proliferate: people in the comments take this stuff way too seriously.
A lot of design proposals especially student work, are deliberately offered as provocations. These projects are tools for thinking, and shortcuts to discussion, about what cities and buildings and contemporary urban life could and should be about.
Remember that things like the default retail strategies of big-box stores are not eternal platonic ideals, never to be critiqued or modified. They are constructs, designed artifacts that encapsulate a certain viewpoint. This project is deliberately trying to examine some of those viewpoints and assumptions, and it's doing that fairly successfully.
i agree with namhenderson, in regards to this project providing an alternative to the big box typology. this is a super interesting project, and i admire its ambitions and spirit. perhaps the problem with architecture today is the unwillingness to take such projects, and their respective contexts (post industrial sites and typologies such as big box stores and malls) truly seriously...and truly attempt to re-think their construction and organization...perhaps if we did our constructed environment may be a bit more dynamic, vibrant and interesting...i dont take this as a provocation for one minute....i hope this gets realized!
i seem to agree with the last two comments. i think the project offers an interesting insight into how an urban environment can be changed with non-urban elements. Yes we all might hate consumerism, big box retailers etc, but I am sure that a lot of us still shop there often, so i think some people just got offended by the word Wal-mart. Many european retailers deal with size/space constraints of older cities. it's silly to say it's impossible to implement the same in american cities.
it also seems that there is a
And while in beachZ suggested "architects can think like developers, but developers are assholes" , lets not be so negative towards people that have a big impact on the environment. And architects are also not some design angels. Architects are guilty of many design/planning sins.
I think this project offered a nice diversity in its program and shows promise for future development of this idea. Maybe it will not wal-mart, but another retailer. but overall this seems like a very interesting idea. it questions the right things and why the solution might not be perfect, it certainly shows steps in the right direction
OK. Sorry. I jumped into hate mode without really reading the project in too much depth, so I suppose my comment was mostly an immediate reaction to the imagery which with all its Wal-mart signs was quite irksome.
Looking more closely at the project it kind of evokes an image of some kind of spaceship. Because Wal-mart's and its cousins' desire to be in this space ship city is so ridiculously high, all the big name retailers forgo their current way of doing things architecturally and cram whatever they can into the space, their business models completely shattered, their controls lost and their concepts (which made them their big box bucks) tossed aside as they are forced due to an extreme mysterious economic or developmental lure to live in an alien territory. (By the way how has Wal-mart modified it's architecture recently?)
Formally, the retailers were willing (due to the luring force) to sacrifice their models, but why and how did the developer adapt to the space ship? I still don't see this project as much more than an elaborate shopping mall with randomly arranged units. I would like to know the phasing of a project like this. Was this city space grown over time - like an actual city, or was it preconceived and placed on the site as designed, Its units auctioned off ? Is it some sort of structure which accepts modular units? What happens when nobody shops at the new wal-mart and it's shell is left?
But is is all about "Big-Box" sitting down in the Gowanus wetlands. It's just another idea of a place to redistribute stuff shipped in from China. This thinking all needs to be put to rest, not revived with new architectural thinking.
What happened to the idea of the Gowanus as a place to make things that we need in our urban community? And how have they addressed the need to step back from the rising water's edge with ideas like this?
The students did not re-purpose the big box or how their structure would be re-purposed - good for them. It is so uncool to reuse stale concepts. As if all ideas should be new. I wasn't asking how they would re-use an existing big-box store, I was asking how their mish-mashed new store would be reused, and that concept is not necessarily the most important to me it's just that this project had no concept involving much beyond program. I don't think it had anything to do with the Gowanus canal or Brooklyn for that matter beside the fact it was located there. The renderings do not show the relationship. The sections only show proximity. The rendering with context at all only had it arbitrarily in the foreground. All structures are represented generically. The canal is shown like some Clip art. Where's the specificity?
Really great presentation but would be too expensive to build for walmart to be a tenant. Youd have to increase the rents in a vertical building vs a horizontal building for it to work. Unfortunately the issue of rethinking big box retailing is more of a financing and leasing market question than an architectural one.
Either way the graphics and presentation are really nice.
The more I spend time with this project, the more I fail to appreciates it's critique or re-working of big box typology.
I certainly feel that the team did a tremendous amount of work on this yet it seems to embrace and fetishize the big box phenom as opposed to transcend it or offering a sensible alternative.
Essentially they are taking a surburbanite and dressing them up in designer, urbane duds, and giving this star "Super Center" an "entourage". A makeover. However this makeover is expensive, what was one story now is more like 8 or 9 The immense energy and cost to run the elevators and presumably escalators creates a burden.
But what happens when the star 'Super Center"that the entourage revolves around walks off, goes bankrupt or fades away? You have a monument to obsolete fashion, the body is no more and the whole system becomes victim.
This project seems to put to much faith in the superstore, the multinational and their willingness to become part of a fabric. It strokes and placates the core store with a supporting entourage of mixed uses. However our experience tells us that when the star leaves, the vacated space, at best, will be subdivided into agencies and instead of a spectacle of commodities we will see locals waiting for their drivers license.
many missed oppurtunities, I suppose, with this generic response (which is understandable with the project being a response to some specific line of thoughts of koolhaas and gehry!) Many programs could have been reinvented by relating it to the canal, the docks, the "building typology conversion" (most warehouses are being turned into residential typologies) going on at the gowanus and the surrounding area.
Personally I see very strong OMA under current through the project and its presentation, and I love the representations of OMA.
for all the name-dropping of significant writers, thinkers, theorists, and architects, the project ended up surprisingly banal. mentioning that you used someone as a source does not put you on the same level as them. maybe you should try having some ideas of your own rather than making a project that's a synthesis of all the people you are reading and seem to have ultimately misunderstood (or at least failed to grasp how to apply them to this design exercise).