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Thread: U.S. Federal Courthouse - 225 Cadman Plaza East - Downtown Brooklyn - by Cesar Pelli

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    Default U.S. Federal Courthouse - 225 Cadman Plaza East - Downtown Brooklyn - by Cesar Pelli

    Construction is in progress on a new Federal Building Courthouse on northwest corner of Tillary and Adams Street in Brooklyn

    Floors: 14
    Construction started: February 2000
    Opening : 2002
    Architects: Cesar Pelli & Associates and HLW International L.L.P


    The view on Federal Building Eastern District Courthouse in January of 2002.





    The view on Federal Building Eastern District Courthouse from Tillary Street in January of 2002.


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    December 6, 2005 Edition > Section: Arts and Letters > Printer-Friendly Version

    Why Brooklyn Looks Like Buffalo

    Architecture
    BY JAMES GARDNER
    December 6, 2005
    URL: http://www.nysun.com/article/24007

    According to one controversial biological theory, cells began to evolve on the day when a large prokaryotic cell ingested several smaller ones. Rather than dying, which would have been the polite thing, these throve to such a degree inside their host that an entirely new organism, the eukaryotic cell, came into existence.

    As with the smallest organisms on earth, so with its largest cities. New York City as we know it came into being in 1898, when the five boroughs were consolidated into Greater New York. That is a nice way of saying that the borough of Manhattan, formerly known as New York tout court, assimilated to itself the other four.

    But just as some biologists believe that the components of a eukaryotic cell retain traces of their earlier autonomy, so can you find in Brooklyn distinct evidence of a time when it was a city unto itself, indeed the biggest city, after New York, in the entire republic. This is especially evident in Brooklyn's civic center around Columbus Park and Cadman Square.

    Borough Hall, the nearby post office, and the various courthouses are worthy of a substantial American city, on par with, say, Cleveland or Buffalo or even Chicago. And there is a spirit to the civic center that seems closer to those other cities than to Manhattan. For there is always a difference between the paramount city in a nation and all the others: a discernible, if not quite quantifiable diminution in the wattage on which they run, a visceral sense that one is not quite at the center of culture, power, or wealth.

    I was put in mind of all this when I visited the newly expanded federal courthouse in Brooklyn at 225 Cadman Plaza East, which has just opened to designs by the Manhattan firm of Cesar Pelli Architects (recently renamed Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects). If you look at other works by this accomplished firm, like the World Financial Center or the new Bloomberg Tower on Lexington Avenue and 59th Street, you feel that they are perfectly suited to Manhattan and would make less sense anywhere else. But when you look at the new courthouse, you feel that this building would not make sense in Manhattan, though it does in Brooklyn, and it would in Buffalo or Cleveland.

    In part this is because it is a "federal" building, and thus partakes of the stylistic ethos of most federal architectural projects. But it has more to do with the fact that no urban agglomeration, whether Brooklyn or anywhere else in America, exhibits the same density as Manhattan. Because they do not inhabit an all-too-finite island, buildings elsewhere usually have more space between them. And even when they rise as skyscrapers, it is usually for other reasons than the crushing imperatives of the real estate market.

    In contrast with most large buildings in Manhattan, the new courthouse is characterized by a certain indolent massiveness, a sense that it has space to spare. With one arraignment courtroom, four magistrate courtrooms, eight district courtrooms, and 13 judges' chambers, it consists of three interrelated parts: a main structure that is largely a slab on a base, a pre-existing six-story courthouse, and an entrance lobby that connects the two.

    The building's construction took longer than anticipated, which probably explains why it already feels a little dated, despite its newness. The design was conceived more than a decade ago, when the taste for vernacular details was far more dominant than it is today. At the courthouse, this residual taste expresses itself in the way its broad bulk hunkers up 14 stories above a three-story base from which it is hardly even recessed.

    Outright reference to any vernacular idiom is hard to find, having been attenuated - perhaps in response to the changing fashions - to vague allusions. It is most evident in the vestigial fins along the top of the building, as well as in the limestone bays that distantly recall the art deco of Rockefeller Center and a thousand federal buildings across the country.

    Far more representative of the now outmoded vernacular taste is the building's massing. Instead of being modular and repetitive, like Modernist structures, or deliberately irregular and imbalanced, like buildings designed in the now reigning Deconstructivist style (both elements can be seen, by the way, in Richard Meier's far more accomplished federal building in Islip), it is classical in its subordination of the parts to the overall design. Vertically, it illustrates the classical tripartite division of tall buildings into a base, a midsection, and a summit. Horizontally, the curving mass of its mid-section is articulated further by a prominent central passage with two slightly recessed flanks.

    The best thing about the building is the entrance lobby that connects the two main parts of the courthouse. Its greenish glass-and-steel curtain wall is configured as a curving cylinder; as such it bears a passing resemblance to that marvelously spiraling inter-block zone that Mr. Pelli's firm designed for the Bloomberg Tower. Though I was not allowed to go deeper into this part of the courthouse - it is not yet completed - I can say that the lofty travertine atrium and staggered stairways that greet the visitor show an artistic vision and a refinement that are not found, and perhaps were never even sought, in the rest of the building.

    jgardner@nysun.com

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    Whoa...that thing´s bad-ass ugly. Comes across like Madison Square Garden. I´m surprised Pelli&Co would do something like this.

    "...classical in its subordination of the parts to the overall design. Vertically, it illustrates the classical tripartite division of tall buildings into a base, a midsection, and a summit".

    That base seems too low. The proportions look odd.

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    I agree it looks ugly now. But allow the building the courtesy of being finished and photographed, professionally and in sunlight, before passing judgment.

  5. #5

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    It is finished.

    When I was taking photos of the renovated post office earlier this year, I took a few shots of the courthouse, but I can't find them. The exterior was almost complete.

    The building looked awkward. There should have been an entrance on Tillary St to break up that wall. The impression I got when walking by was that it was a security issue.

    First-rate materials.

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    Forum Veteran macreator's Avatar
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    What happened? It looks more like a prison than a courthouse.

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    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    Some other recently built Federal Courthouses:

    Seattle (Arch.: NBBJ, Seattle; 2005)




    Hammond, IN ( arch.: Pei Cobb Freed & Partners; 2002)




    Miami (arch.: Arquitetonica / HOK):




    Boston (Pei Cobb Freed & Partners; 1998)








    San Francisco (Thomas Mayne / Morphosis; u/c)




    Las Cruces, NM (arch.: Antoine Predock; 2004)


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    BPC: "I agree it looks ugly now. But allow the building the courtesy of being finished and photographed, professionally and in sunlight, before passing judgment."

    How in the world could this forum function if we were to wait for buildings to be "professionally photographed and in sunlight " before passing judgement?

    We are regularly commenting on buildings by seeing only renderings; by seeing mock-ups; by seeing photographs of upper floors and rarely at street level, buildings partially constructed (see the Hearst Tower thread as an example)... and so on.

    Or haven´t you noticed?

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    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    A few more:

    El Paso, TX (arch.: Antoine Predock; 2007)




    Las Vegas, NV (arch.: HCA/Cannon Dworsky; 2000)




    Islip, NY (arch.: Richard Meier; 2000)




    San Juan, PR (arch.: Finegold Alexander + Associates Inc.; 2003)



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    Thanks for these postings! Nice stuff! Miami looks especially cool and very "Miami". The Mier design is beautiful ( wish we could see more of how it´s situated...).

    (Boston looks like a dud...that´s Pei?)

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    Forum Veteran krulltime's Avatar
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    Yeah I dont like the Brooklyn Courthouse.

    Wow... I want to see more photos of this one:

    San Francisco (Thomas Mayne / Morphosis; u/c)


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    Quote Originally Posted by lofter1
    A few more:

    El Paso, TX (arch.: Antoine Predock; 2007)

    This one is an outrage. Straight from the 70s. Yuck. The rest are generally pretty good. I like Meier's courthouse especially, and the red rock one in Las Cruces, and the one in San Juan (more for what it does not, namely impose itself upon its surroundings). Pei's Boston courthouse might not be a masterpiece, but it looks like it provides some nice views of the Harbor.

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    Forum Veteran macreator's Avatar
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    The Islip courthouse looks fantastic in real life situated among trees and low rise buildings. Its white coloring and height give it a really powerful appearance.

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    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    The Boston Courthouse has great interior spaces.

    I can't find anything on the web showing later (finished) shots of the Brooklyn Courthouse. Did see that it has been in the planning stage since the 1990's, so that might explain the less than dazzling design. In the past couple of years the GSA (fed agency in charge of court house construction) has definitely allowed the edge to be pushed. NYCers got short changed with both the new(ish) Fed Court in Manhattan (below) and Brooklyn.


    Helmuth, Obata, Kassabaum (HOK)
    Constructed: 1991 - 1995

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    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by macreator
    The Islip courthouse looks fantastic in real life situated among trees and low rise buildings. Its white coloring and height give it a really powerful appearance.
    some shots:


    http://www.riccigreene.com/courts/main.html#elPaso
    http://www.riccigreene.com/courts/ISLIP001.html



    Courtesy Richard Meier and Partners
    Model of Federal Building and United States Courthouse
    Islip, New York
    1993-2000


    http://www.eng.newcastle.edu.au/~aki...r-Islip-3.html



    http://www.aia.org/aiarchitect/thisw...chitecture.htm



    Scott Frances/ESTO

    http://www.nytimes.com/2004/09/19/ar...H+1Arts4+eVPfg

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