SHoP Architects May Bring Barclays Center Controversy to Queens

To the many, many, many people who do not closely follow architectural happenings, SHoP Architects may have once been easily dismissed as a caps-lock-induced typo in a stream of design industry argot. Today, however, they are the architects who brought Brooklyn the controversial weathered-steel mollusk that is the Barclays Center, an expensive new sports arena that has elicited cheers and jeers for its aberrant appearance and its knotty, character-filled urban agenda. Known for her underdog-championing Philadelphia urbanism column in the Philadelphia Inquirer, critic Inga Saffron recently sang unexpected praise for the design, asserting that the SHoP Architects and Ellerbe Becket-designed monolith “manages to be both glam and gritty, foreign and familiar. It contains Brooklyn in all its multitudes.”

Saffron is not alone in her applause. According to Capital New York, Major League Soccer (MLS) was smitten by the design of the Brooklyn stadium (which was a pioneering project in its resolve to commission high-profile architects, starting with the unsuccessful baiting of Frank Gehry), teaming up with SHoP Architects to produce an initial scheme for a soccer stadium in the Queens neighborhood of Flushing Meadows Corona Park, the historic site of the 20th-century World’s Fair. Aesthetics aside, if MLS progresses with this proposal, it will be pursuing a similarly intrusive urban undertaking, envenoming Queens residents much in the same way the Barclays proposal unfurled into a community-versus-developers “battle for the soul of Brooklyn,” as Saffron described it.

“They always dump on Queens,” said Councilman Daniel Dromm after the first public meeting of the Fairness Coalition of Queens in September, according to Capital. “And this time, I don’t think they’re going to dump on Queens and be able to get away with it.”

- Kelly Chan