When I first moved to Brooklyn a year and a half ago, the Barclays Center was in the process of being built. In fact, I didn’t know where it was until one of my early exploratory walks around Brooklyn (also known as: getting lost on your way home from work). Yes, the Barclays Center was about two blocks from work. Pretty soon the large arena would be completed, and soon after that the New Jersey Nets would move in, become the Brooklyn Nets, and try to win some basketball games.
I suppose most people dislike the way arenas look. They are big and almost always bear the name of some huge company. Almost always the letters that spell the name of that huge company light up at night and sometimes even during the day. I’m not a terrible fan either of the way arenas look. Very rarely do they exhibit any sort of aesthetic architectural merit (although I do really like that one arena in Beijing that looks like a bird’s nest). And of course, what are arenas but more space to place loud and lit advertisements, a blank canvas for gluttonous commercialism?
I never knew what the triangle inside Atlantic, Flatbush, and 6th Avenue looked or felt like before the first truck-fulls of concrete were laid down for the new arena. Oftentimes Brooklyn natives would complain about the Barclays Center’s location, its monstrous rust-coloured facade right outside their window. They have reason to be upset, and I would normally feel the same way, but the truth is that I kind of like the arena there. ‘It could be worse,’ I said one time to one man. ‘It could be orange. Or you could be dead.’
Of course it’s not so difficult for me not to mind the arena’s presence since I like basketball. But there’s a bit more to it.
Perhaps my favourite thing about monuments is how small they can make you feel. It’s a sensation I particularly enjoy because I personally associate it with travel. This is partly because buildings rarely tower over you in Los Angeles they way they’ve towered over me in London, Paris, Rome, and Manhattan. But also, as I walk down South Portland Ave and turn a slight corner where the Barclays Center is first visible, my body and mind seem to re-proportion. For a split-second I feel, not uncomfortable, but simply outside my comfort zone, because I’ve been made smaller. And suddenly, for however long the arena remains in view, I am acutely aware that I am just a tiny person walking through a world that seems like it can get bigger whenever it wants to.