Bronx Cheer

To say that I've been disappointed by the coverage of the new Yankee Stadium in the design press would be an understatement, as noted in this "rant" column for ID magazine. The piece was written before the most recent spate of reviews, which only confirmed my thesis that critics are far too concerned with formal criteria and not nearly enough with the many factors that truly define good design (and are most critical to fans). Take, for example, the response by Times critic Nicolai Ourossouff, who does not mention any of the controversy surrounding the stadium's financing, its appropriation of public land, or the fact that the average ticket is 76 percent more expensive than last year, according to a recent study. Instead he focuses on aesthetics, and ends with this condescending remark, inexplicably posed in the second person: "For us, the buildings are just another reminder of the enormous gap that remains between high design and popular taste." It's worth noting that in the New Yorker, though not nearly so snide, Paul Goldberger's review similarly fails to address any of the controversies about the new Bronx park. For a contrast, I recommend Alex Belth's far more insightful take, the most personal and most lyrical of the three.
(PS: Special props to Annemieke Beemster Leverenz for the pitch-perfect illustration that went along with my piece, reproduced above.)

[cross-posted at]

5 replies on “Bronx Cheer”

In a limited column, a design criticism column, Ouroussoff (Goldberger perhaps less so with the NYer) has restricted real estate with which to address the aesthetics AND the political economies of the stadia without coming off as a dilettante or exposing a superficial knowledge of the controversies. That being said, the utter lack of attention given in either of these columns to those issues is pretty galling. Either NO and PG assume we all know about them or they don’t care about them. Neither one works for me, frankly.
On the other hand, I had been preparing a post about aesthetics alone, and the similarities between the new YS and some of the work of Italian fascist architects of the 30s. But now I am skittish, lest I incur the wrath of my co-blogger!

Ive had issues with Ouroussoff for years. His reviews are always based on aesthetics alone with little thought to the actual function of the building and the people using the building. Take a look at his review of the museum of arts and design last fall or the other piece where he argued the best way to improve the city is tearing down the buildings that he personally doesnt like even if it leaves just a hole in the ground. HIs argument was essentially who needs that medical research center at Mt.Sinai, lets tear it down so we dont have to look at it from central park…
One comment on YFs post is that the whole 76% increase in avg price may be true but its also pretty misleading of a stat. The very expensive seats really skew the number greatly, there are a large number of seats which didnt go up in price at all….

YF, in the rant you write, with regards to the tax costs, the new costs of attending games, the destruction of the old field, “aren’t these the real design issues at stake?”. But it is very difficult to point to the the “designers”, or to invoke “design” when discussing these issues. Was the plan decided by urbanists, city planners? Or was it Yankee ownership and politicians? Is “design” the issue, or “politics”, or “ownership”? What would a design-educated ownership have decided to do, and what if, in fact, the Steinbrenners DO have an appreciation for design? Where do politics, economics, etc., end and design begin?
In the end, Nicolai Ouroussoff might have noted the politics and the economics, but is that really design, is that really what you want Nicolai Ouroussoff demagoguing about, can he even do this with any effect?
In these cases, the design is the least of the offenders, though it may in fact, and to some, offend.

“inexplicably posed in the second person: “For us, the buildings are just another reminder of the enormous gap that remains between high design and popular taste.”
That is the first person plural.

I love it – props to yadda on the 4-month retroactive grammar check (assuming yadda is right – I say “assuming” only because I’m too much of a literary dolt to know and too lazy to confirm on my own).
The real question is where was Nick the English professor on this one!?! Maybe when he gets to Jakarta he’ll let us know.

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