Giving Aid and Comfort to the Suburbanists

libeskind's building on top of the footprints.  don't get me started. image: Shocked, shocked that Libeskind wants to build over the footprints

Welcome to the party, Herbert. Perhaps displeased with his own irrelevance in the design and rebuilding process of the World Trade Center site, the Times' Herbert Muschamp proclaims, "the time has come to examine in some detail the ground zero design process as it has unfolded in the last two years." [I was going to say he "quixotically proclaimed," but I'm a fan of Don Quixote; Muschamp wishes he was quixotic.]

What roused Muschamp from his critical slumber: extremely specific and unpleasing drafts of Daniel Libeskind's "master plan," which would formalize many controversial elements of Libeskind's concept and foreclose a lot of future architects' flexibility for the buildings they're supposed to design.

Libeskind's vision is for a skyline crowned with"glitzy, structurally inept towers," which would look more appropriate in Houston. That's not a compliment. Of course, it wasn't a compliment when Paul Goldberger talked about it in July 2002, and it wasn't a compliment when I flagged it last year as the endgame of a decade of the Houstonization of Manhattan.

The Libeskind plan had significant flaws from the beginning, but it's the fruit of the poisoned tree that is Gov. Pataki and the Port Authority's commerce-laden program for the site. This has all been known, if ignored, by the critical powers that be. Muschamp's disingenuous cry is too little, too late.

The last significant chance to influence or change these guidelines is the Memorial Competition. The only credible refutation for this impending Houstonization is a memorial design that demands a recalibration of the priorities set by PA/Pataki/Silverstein and Libeskind. It may hurt to hear it, but any memorial design that accepts the Libeskind plan on its face means the suburbanists have already won.

Since 2001 here at, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting that time.

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first published: November 8, 2003.

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