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Thursday, September 7, 2006

less than zero

Developer Larry Silverstein unveiled the designs for the major buildings that are proposed for the World Trade Center site. David Child's Freedom tower, designed out of the The New York Office of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, is shown here in context with structures by Norman Foster and Richard Rogers, both of London, Fumihiko Maki of Tokyo and Santiago Calatrava of Spain. They are each nice buildings, but is it just me, or is something missing?

I'd hoped for a monumental expression of creativity that would reflect the resilience in the character I saw in my neighbors and honor those who lost their lives on that horrible day. But all we've got here is a commercial real estate development. What's so special about this office complex other than the site it occupies? Is there anything here that makes us exclaim, only in America! This group of buildings lacks a cohesive vision and fails to rise to the occasion. It just does not hold together. What if on this development, we just said the commercial interests take a back seat. What's being done here defines and reflects our character. This property is so much bigger in every way, than usual. Politician's legacies should take second place to the American legacy. I'll bet the results would be so spectacular that their value could not be counted.

These office buildings, which are all designed by successful architects, patronized by a successful real estate developer, and with public accountability provided by successful politicians, just so clearly reflect the results of the well publicized politics and power struggles which have played out over the past five years; and maybe (although I hope not) of the condition of our nation as we struggle to understand our own evolving condition. There's a saying in the design business that a camel is a horse designed by a committee. The site design is an accurate reflection of the dissonant process which gave it shape. Perhaps the expectations on a project like this can never be fully agreed upon and met; but I think that seeing truly visionary design could go a long way to gaining consensus.

See the article in the New York Times. Maybe The Onion got it right this week.