Centrally located, Times Plaza, Brooklyn, has long been the borough's civic and social heart, constantly evolving as the urban space around undergoes the cycles of change natural to healthy cities. Once it was a bounded to the East by cold-storage houses; the Els converging like roots, like veins. Omnibuses in the 1870’s, a patina-ed metal-clad diner in the 1970’s, a sad urban mall looks over it today.
This is our civic space, and as another cycle of change ripples through the borough we, as architects, have to be mindful of our civic duty, we must be cognizant of our ability to impact the seemingly un-dammable forces around us: city/developer trusts, the artisanal-ification of culture, the constant demographic down-grading of the borough’s poor.
Like every civic center, there are strata of occupation: the crowd pulsing towards the stadium, the reverse commuters on their way to the LIRR, the stay-at-home-artist dads with babies strapped to them. The strollering ones, the half-way home ones, the been here since the Seventies ones, the hold-outs from Yemen, Jordan.
Most important are the live-here-ones, the cognoscenti of the place, the curators of the social space, the live-on-State-Street ones, the just-down-Pacific ones. For this social layer, Hank’s saloon is the community gathering space. All the neighborhood regulars pass through there. They tell stories of the days when the Mohawks had it, when the bikers had it, when the Rock-a-billy-ers had it. If Time’s Plaza is a kind of heart, certainly Hank’s is a neural node sending information back to the brain. Hank’s is a thermometer of the ‘plaza’s’ health.
Hanks, is threatened with demolition, and will make way for condos no doubt. Here is an opportunity of architectural thinking to step in.
How does Times Plaza continue to express itself as the borough’s heart? Here lies the BAM cultural district. Here lies the Clocktower. Soon too, here will lay the baseball hat of the Barclay Center. Here we see densification, and vertical movement. This is good for a city, but how do we not lose Hank’s?
This is a proposal to build a new museum that will cantilever over the existing Hank’s building, allow it to continue to operate, and minimize the lose of square footage. The museum, extending the BAM cultural district, will present predominantly Brooklyn-based art, a testament to the borough’s creative vibrancy.
For years, Hank’s has been known to the neighborhood as the bar with the flames painted on the side, almost as if it is advertising it’s eventual demise to the forces of development; a symbol of Shiva’s fire of destruction, bringing a cycle of life to a close. But as the myth tells us, from the decay of material decomposition will arise new patterns of matter.
The building is a crown of smoke emerging from that fire, a phoenix of creative organization. It preserves a cultural necessity and creates a venue for the further solidification of Time’s Plaza as Brooklyn’s center.
Location: Brooklyn, NY, US
My Role: Designer