The New Sterility: Williamsburg’s Imperial Climax, Part 3

2010 November 11
by Ando Arike

Have you noticed the decidedly antiseptic look of so much of the new residential construction in Williamsburg—the resemblance to hospitals, shopping malls, airport hotels, and corporate offices? What does this mean? Take the vista pictured to left, for instance: the corner of North 3rd and Kent Avenue. What could such blandness possibly say about the people who live in these buildings? Or about those who designed, financed, and built them? What does this upwelling of sterility in the neighborhood have to tell us about the zeitgeist? What are our elite trendsetters thinking?

Touring Vertical Suburbia—Subdivisions in the Sky

Williamsburg, when it was finally opened up by the 2005 rezoning of its industrial real estate, promised a veritable goldmine to developers: blocks and blocks of waterfront and near-waterfront land with unparalleled views of the Manhattan skyline. Furthermore, by 2005 the neighborhood had gained a reputation for “cool”—it was a hipster haven, a crucible of youth culture, a chick magnet, a nouveau bohemia, and only one subway stop across the river from the East Village. Young Urban Professionals were stampeding here in herds; a bridge-and-tunnel crowd was already rampant in the nightlife.

So what did the developers do when they got the green light? They set out to maximize profits, of course, in the time-honored New York way—

101 North 5th— A bit of the Emerald City of Oz comes to life here in Brooklyn in this architectural fantasy on the theme of green.

with luxury condos and monster high-rises utterly contrary to the neighborhood’s low-rent low-rise ambience. And so we have the thirty-plus story towers of Northside Piers and The Edge, which in form and concept are a flying “fuck-you” to the neighborhood to the east. We have monstrosities like the 101 North 5th, which practically beg for graffiti and tossed bricks.

As the American imperial climax—the twenty-year global triumph of our capitalist ruling class—ends with the crash of the biggest Ponzi scheme in history, what is rising in Williamsburg reflects the terminal sterility of a socio-economic system that has exhausted all previous rationales for existence—even, perhaps, that of individual self-interest. Allow me to venture a prophecy—what we see here is the architecture of nihilism, omen of the final descent of liberal democratic capitalism into corporate feudalism and a conformity and anonymity so monotonous as to induce vertigo. Below, we take a tour of some of the more egregious examples of this new cultural excrescence.

NV, get it? As in, “I’ll bet you’re green with envy that you don’t live here!”

101 North 5th—The high parapets of the parasite class. Perfect location from which to watch the peons as they scurry by, filled with envy and resentment.

Northside Piers from North 5th Street: A flying "fuck you" to the formerly working-class neighborhood.

North 11th Street —Brave New World and 1984 come to life in this tribute to dystopian science-fiction. While lackeys of the ruling elite—the Emotional Engineers and senior Thought Police, for instance—live in buildings such as this, the angry Proles are kept at bay by a multitude of police agencies armed with extraordinary powers.

North 11th Street--Despite their perks, Party members will recognize their responsibilities to the State and behave accordingly.

80 Metropolitan—Life in the Total Factory: the stark functionalism of the New World Order on brutal display.

34 Berry Street—Cookie-cutter domiciles for information age worker-drones toiling within the Hive-Mind of the capitalist world order. To allay feelings of sameness and boredom, colored panels will be alternated regularly.

135 North 11th—Reaching up, up, and up, into the stratosphere of consumption. Code Orange on every floor: yes, you better remain vigilant or the angry Muslim masses might attack. They hate our freedom. Roof ornaments will convert to helipads in crisis.

Just in case you couldn’t figure out what purpose this building serves.

Bunker aesthetics go aboveground on North 10th Street.

Humorous decorative effects lighten up mood of otherwise severe façade. LOL!

The New Sterility incarnate on Bedford Avenue.

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