Jonathan Marvel deals with a difficult context

Nick Myall
22 Dec 2015

Renderings released for Atlantic Yards housing project in New York

New York architect Jonathan Marvel was on hand last week at a community meeting in Brooklyn to present his firm’s design for 664 Pacific Street, a mixed-used tower in the Atlantic Yards/ Pacific Park neighbourhood that will include 323 luxury apartments set atop a 100,000 square foot public school.  

The architect’s presentation (available online at began with Marvel establishing himself as an expert at designing schools and housing projects and someone familiar with the neighbourhood. Then it quickly turned to diagrams detailing how he came up with the design for the 26-storey tower, a collage of nine stacked metal and brick volumes in varying shades of grey, that will eclipse the mostly four and five storey red brick townhouses around it.    

First, Marvel explained how the tower, which sits at the transition of the existing neighbourhood and the burgeoning one, is designed to mediate between two very different scales; the massive scale of the Atlantic Yards development and the low scale of the surrounding neighbourhood.  By setting the building back 23ft from the street, eight feet more than required by law; employing light-coloured materials on the building’s exterior that will reflect light rather than absorb it, and giving the building a fenestration where the ratio of solid to void echoes that of the neighbouring buildings, Marvel explained how his building will fit into the neighbourhood.  

But the crowd wasn’t easily won over.  As DNAinfo reported in its piece about the neighbourhood’s reaction to the presentation... the design didn’t go far enough to quell residents’ concerns with one resident calling Marvel’s self-described “civic street” “a chaotic street”  and another declaring that “everybody behind (the building) is going to be in shadow. “  Other objections to the design included the siting of the public school in an area already congested with traffic and the lack of curb cuts, which would ease access and deliveries to the building. 

664 Pacific Street is the six residential building currently underway at the 22-acre Atlantic Yards development project.  Slated for completion in 2017, the project is a joint venture between Forest City Ratner and Chinese government-owned Greenland Group.

Sharon McHugh

US Correspondent

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