Back in 2005 I posted about IKEA's bad behavior in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Their destruction of Civil War-era buildings to make way for a parking lot seemed like a new low for the Swedish perpetrator of inexpensive furniture. At that time the destruction of the one-story section of Marcel Breuer's 1969 Armstrong Building (aka Pirelli Building) in New Haven, Connecticut to make way for another surface parking lot next to the massive blue and yellow building seemed excusable. At least history would be partially saved, right?
[Marcel Breuer's 1969 Armstrong (aka Pirelli) Building, pre-IKEA | image source]
The store in Red Hook opened this summer, with all apparently forgotten in the media whirlwind around New York City's first Swedish superstore. A dedicated water taxi shuttles people to and from Manhattan, while bus service links to subways in the not-so-immediate area. This apparently was not enough to reduce the number of parking spaces needed. So my disappointment over the city's amnesia made me wonder what happened with the IKEA store in New Haven, if partially saving a Breuer paid off.
[Street view from I-95 | image source]
The view from I-95 shows one obvious by-product of IKEA's presence: what's left of Breuer's building is further transformed beyond the demolition. The overly-large signage touting the store's latest, very American tagline (a tagline so ubiquitous one need not read the words to even know what it says) not only covers a portion of the Pirelli Building's facade, it does it in a way that the building basically becomes a billboard for IKEA.
[Aerial view with old footprint of Pirelli Building| image source]
The photo at top illustrates what is also lost besides the two-story appendage: green space. The office building's lawn has been transformed into asphalt. The aerial above shows not only how small the demolished portion's footprint was relative to the new parking lot (if unfortunately sited in the plan) but it makes clear the best solution for preserving the Pirelli Building in its entirety: put the parking on the roof of IKEA. Of course this solution would have required larger, shorter and more expensive structure to support the weight of cars, people, and the flatpack furniture until its whisked away by the first two, something the retailer probably would not agree to.
[View of remaining building from parking lot | image source]
A portion of the demolished area's facade appears to have been reused to create continuity, to seal the hole left by demolition. Like far too much preservation, these sorts of visual band-aids are never adequate, and in this case the balance of the building has shifted so it appears extremely top heavy and formally arbitrary, in terms of the gap between floors; the relationship between low- and mid-rise is gone. The fact a building with longevity was partially demolished to make way for surface parking for a building with a relatively short shelf-life is a great disappointment. It illustrates the power of IKEA in making jurisdictions do whatever it takes to bring the retailer innto their tax base.