Nicolai Ouroussoff, who appears to have become the Times' new Herbert Muschamp may not be up to the task, as is disclosed in his review of the five proposals for the railyard in today's paper. He wants to use words like urbanism and density in his evaluation of the five proposals, but he wields them simplistically, like a little girl spinning out romantic dialogue for her dolls. He's studied the concepts, but seems never to have really experienced them. He petulantly longs for originality in the proposals but does not suggest what form that might take.
Yesterday, C and I walked down to Grand Central to view the models of the five proposals and had our initial feelings confirmed: Brookfield Properties has made the best of the lot. Here is their articulate and intelligent Director of Development, Kate Collignon, fielding our questions.
While discussing the dismissable Ourossoff review with C, I ridiculed the way he (Ourossoff) wishes that the proposals related more strongly and imaginatively to the railyards that will continue to operate below the surface. I said, "What, does he want the grass replaced with glass?" C looked up from his coffee and said, "That might be nice." Anyway, we both love architectural models which have really evolved in recent years. So much more than balsa, these, lit-from-below models glowed and shimmered like quartz. If not for the fact that I have seen enough such elegant models translated into actual dreary buildings, I would be more easily taken in by their promise.
I suspect Mr. Ourossoff hasn't seen much of this type of development. Has probably never pushed a project through the development process, has probably never built anything of this scale (may have never even replaced a toilet in his apartment). I fear he is an academic, and is to urban architecture what a coffee table book of prints is to painting. Oh well. And for the record, yes, all five of these proposals could have been more imaginative, but the firms that comprised the assembled teams who made these pitches know full well that governments and entities with authority to permit or deny cannot stand too much imagination and originality. If you want the green light for a public project of this size, you need to dumb it down a bit. Here are some shots of the display models, including one that proposes a large outdoor movie screen on which is shown Julie Andrews as Maria (on perpetual loop?).