So that was June that he came in?
What was the task you were given?
The task was, ‘We need you to get up to speed as quickly as possible in understanding what this building is and all of its constraints, and we need you to collaborate with Ellerbe Becket. And we need you to do what you do best, which is figure out a way to make a beautiful building, and figure out a way to build it.’
Was it mostly the exterior?
I think we started there, but very quickly we had to think about the integration between the two.
Coming late in the game, I assume it constrained your options. You couldn’t completely rethink an arena, right?
Absolutely. Look, EB is known for making some fantastic arenas, so there were certain things about the basic protoform that EB had a lot of experience doing and the client was really excited about, so we saw that as a parameter. So where the steel was set—we didn’t want to start redesigning all the steel, so take the steel where it is, and just make some really precise small changes and see what you can do to push the building into the next realm of architecture.
One of the big distinguishing features of the exterior are these metal steel bands that are wavy. How did you settle on that?
Metal seemed to be the right kind of material, and I think we were trying to avoid a finished type of material, like a painted material. We really wanted a natural material, because we felt over time, that would weather and patina and be more authentic. … So natural materials—there aren’t that many, and when we got to thinking about weathered steel, we thought, that could be really cool. It has a grittiness to it, but also a sort of refinement.
Is it tough being part of a project that is a target of a lot of caustic criticism?
Yeah. We gave serious consideration as to whether we wanted to do it. And I think the thing that convinced us was, after speaking with Bruce, we were convinced he really wanted to make a great building. … We showed Bruce—we didn’t hold back, we said, ‘Here’s what we want to do,’ and it was daring, and, ‘What do you think?’ And he really loved it, and was incredibly supportive and pushed us to make it as good as possible. And even knowing that the project was going to have its critics no matter what we designed, we felt like it’s our role as New Yorkers to try to make it as good as we could.
With the rest of the project, is it awkward designing the arena not knowing what the four buildings that border it are going to look like?
We were always told to design a building that can stand on its own, for the short term, and a design that clearly doesn’t have anything that can obstruct the rest of the plan. … That was another difficult part of it, thinking about both contexts.