The Nets’ Billion-Dollar New Arena Is Coated With Rusty Metal, And It’s Ugly

  • Glenn Davis

The Barclays Center, home-to-be of the Brooklyn Nets, was a controversial building before it even was a building. That’s because it was a centerpiece of the controversial Atlantic Yards project, which involved developer/former Nets majority owner Bruce Ratner getting New York State to condemn several acres’ worth of (occupied) Brooklyn real estate so he could develop it for his own purposes – including building the Barclays Center, and relocating the Nets from New Jersey to play in it. Indeed, the fact that the Barclays Center would be frequented by members of the public – as opposed to, say, a luxury apartment building – made it a key part of the project’s ability to get off the ground.

Well, that’s all in the past, of course – Ratner won, he built the Atlantic Yards development (albeit not in its originally-proposed form), and the Nets start playing at the Barclays Center this fall. But just because the Barclays Center is allowed to exist does’t mean the controversy surrounding the building itself is over. No, now that it’s up, people are starting to ask the question: why’s it all rusted?

It’s a good question: the arena’s brand new and cost $1 billion, after all. Rust? But, as you might expect, the rusting is but a design flourish – one that developers might prefer you call “weathered steel.” It’s not exactly uncommon – both this New York Times piece and this Deadspin post from yesterday cite other structures that have used the stuff – but it’s aso hard to argue from either piece, especially Deadspin’s, that the weathered steel is actually a good idea, architecturally. While there are functional reasons to use it, the Times points out:

Weathering steel — often known by its old brand name, Cor-Ten — develops a fine layer of rust, which then acts as a protective coating against moisture, slowing its own corrosion process almost to a stop.

It’s also still, you know, rust. Deadspin:

Pittsburgh’s U.S. Steel Tower, which opened in 1970, was built to showcase [weathering steel]. It turned all the surrounding sidewalks (and a few neighboring structures) brown. The company tried power-washing the stuff off, but they couldn’t make it all go away. A large, complicated public sculpture from 1967 was crumbling by 1991.

So, we’ll probably be looking at some brown spots on the sidewalks outside the Barclays Center (even despite precautionary measures taken to ensure the dripping from the intentionally-rusted metal), at least. Even if the rusting outer layer succeeds at protecting the building’s actual exterior, one would hope the building would look good. After all, weathered steel is supposed to be partly about looks, too. So, will it be worth it from an aesthetic standpoint? Will the Barclays Center make up for those brown rust splotches on sidewalks and spotty history of the material itself with beauty beyond reproach? Here’s another look:

I’m not an architect, granted. But come on: that looks like shit.

Photos via here and here