Category:world trade center memorial

September 11, 2010

'We Who Change The World'

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"My cover would go right here." [image via]

Just like the Wallace Sayre quip about academic politics being so vicious because the stakes are so low, maybe the hubris and self-regard are so extraordinary because it's the Venice Architecture Biennale. Anyway, let's call it out quickly, and then look at what Rem Koolhaas has to say about modernism and preservation, because there may be some interesting things there.

[The text, by the way, is Designboom's exhaustive 4-part guided tour (II, III, IV, pending) of "Chronocaos," the OMA/AMO installation of research and history-related projects within Kazuyo Sejima's exhibition.]

So. Hubris. Well, for starters, there's the introductory wall text, which, wow:

Architects--we who change the world--have been oblivious or hostile to the manifestations of preservation the past. Since 1981, in Portoghesi's "Presence of the Past," there has been almost no attention paid to preservation in successive architecture Biennales.
I mean, I'm sure the visitors to the exhibition just ate that up, but should I even be reading it, much less commenting on it? Not being either an architect OR one who changes the world and all?

Then there's the photo above, and its associated text:

The rise of the market economy has meant the end of the architect as a credible public figure.

Since Philip Johnson in 1979, no architect has appeared on the cover of TIME magazine.

Starchitects accepted a faustian bargain where they became more prominent, but their role less significant ...

We'll get to that public/market economy stuff in a minute; first let's look at this Cover of TIME [CoTIME] business, which is as alluring as it is non-credible. [I was about to say "useless," but really, it's quite useful; it just illustrates something other than what I think Koolhaas intends.]

As it happens, Jonathan Franzen's CoTIME this week gave Craig Ferhman the chance to do a similar CoTIME analysis for writers:

Time put 14 authors on its cover in the 1920s, 23 in the 1930s, seven in the 1940s, 11 in the 1950s, 10 in the 1960s, eight in the 1970s, four in the 1980s, four in the 1990s, one in the 2000s, and, now, Franzen in 2010.
Ferhman finds that behind the cover, TIME's profiles of writers are truncated, shallow, reductivist, or otherwise nearly empty of actual content. He cites multiple examples of writers resisting the--what else to call it?-- "faustian bargain" of a CoTIME, which was long considered uncritical, low-brow, and hypey. The cover becomes a thing in [and of] itself, a distillation of the magazine's--and by direct extension, its owner's--desire to assert authority and control over a cultural agenda.

In this light, and given the close tracking between architects' and writers' presence on the cover, one might be led to wonder if it's not architecture [or literature] which has changed in the last 20-30 years, but TIME and its own role or strategy as a megaphone for culture. Or to question the suitability for a democratic society of monolithic, top-down annointing of public figures' credibility. That one would not be Rem Koolhaas, though.

In any case, CoTIME reveals as little about the reported "end of the architect as a public figure" as it does about the ego-driven architect's desire to, well, to appear on the cover of TIME.

And yet. You know, this is right where I was going to acknowledge and explore OMA/AMO's more salient points, about how, as Designboom puts it,

...this year represents the perfect friction point between two directions: the world's ambition to rescue larger and larger territories of the planet, and the global rage to eliminate the evidence of the post-war period of architecture as a social project. both tendencies--preservation and destruction--are seen to slowly destroy any sense of a linear evolution of time.
But I think I'll take those up later. Because I just clicked through to see the CoTIME of the architect I thought would be the least likely candidate for a credible public figure in his day: a January 1963 story on Minoru Yamasaki.

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1963. Which turned out to be pegged to his recent selection to design a 15-acre site for the Port Authority in downtown Manhattan:

What form the project may be taking in Yamasaki's inventive mind is his secret, but simple arithmetic shows that the vast space needs and limited site could force him to record heights or bulk. One thing the center will not be is harsh or cold. In taking the road to Xanadu, Yamasaki has turned office buildings, schools, churches and banks into gentle pleasure palaces that are marvelously generous in spirit. He shuns monuments. He is suspicious even of masterpieces, which he feels often better serve the ego of their creators than the well-being of those who use them. He may have committed some architectural heresies, but if he has, it is largely because he is a humanist with enormously appealing aspirations. He wants his buildings to be more than imposing settings for assorted clusters of humanity; they should also recall to man the "gentility of men." should inspire "man to live a humanitarian, inquisitive, progressive life, beautifully and happily." However the Trade Center turns out, it will have that ideal-- and it will be built with the ultimate degree of loving care.
It's hard or impolitic to remember how reviled Yamasaki's buildings were as architecture and as part of the city. But I don't think anyone would dare argue about the World Trade Center that it was their architect who changed the world.

"11. We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may."

- Joseph Smith, The Articles of Faith, "Thirteen statements describing the fundamental beliefs of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."

August 10, 2010

أنا ♥ نيويورك

ana_bahib_ny_iloveny.jpg

John Emerson saw an "I [HEART] NY" flyer in Arabic posted in the East Village a few days after September 11, 2001. He posted a large, printable graphic version on his blog a year later.

A few months after that, I noted that Maurizio Cattelan had created a

cattelan.gif

t-shirt in an edition of 100, which was sold via Printed Matter. The Printed Matter folks now have no idea what the story was, and I'm waiting to hear back from Maurizio, but I think it's way past time for another edition.

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The BBC has nice footage of the mockup for Michael Arad's World Trade Center Memorial waterfalls, which was constructed in Brooklyn last week. My impression: unexpectedly Olafur-esque.

Also, the [engineer?] guy saying it is to be an "Eternal Waterfall" that never gets turned off. Unless it gets cold or something. File that away for after the Memorial's dedicated, when we will be able to see/hear if they actually turn the Eternal Waterfall on and off during operating hours, which will seem like the logical/inevitable thing to do.

9/11 waterfall design unveiled [bbc]
The East River School

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Seriously, I could fall into Gerhard Richter's website and not surface for days. There's just so much stuff. And related stuff. And meta-stuff. Auction histories for specific works? Cross-referenced Atlas pages? It just goes on and on and on.

Recently, two interviews with Rob Storr were added: one is about Richter's Cage Paintings, which Storr showed at the Venice Biennale in 2007, and which are now at the Tate. [It's a comically great business model to make and sell giant series of paintings intact instead of slogging it out one by one.] There's a lot of discussion and still photos of the making of palette knife & squeegee process for the abstract pictures--I always thought Richter only painted them on a table, but there he is on his ladder. And Storr has a thoroughly enjoyable smackdown of the fiercely "deterministic" Rosalind Krauss's connection of Richter and Johns. I'd pay cash money to see that panel discussion.

Same day/same outfit is another video, Storr is in the office at Marian Goodman, discussing September, the small monitor/TV screen-sized painting of the World Trade Center attack that opened Richter's latest show at the gallery. [Yeah, I know it was actually a photo of the painting.]

It's funny, I'd conveniently forgotten how central war, destruction, civilian casualties, and terrorism have been to Ricther's work and his experience. How does that happen? Anyway, it's interesting stuff.

Gerhard-Richter.com [gerhard-richter.com]

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Bwahaha, if ever there were an architect whose work looked like it was all churned out of an idea factory from weary bins full of identical parts, it's Daniel Libeskind. And sure enough, just in time for the prefab business to be declared dead, the NY Times reports that Libeskind has unveiled a "limited artistic edition" 5,500-sf prefab villa, which can be yours--installed, in Europe--for just EUR2-3 million apiece.

Mr. Libeskind says he was involved in every aspect of the design, from the door handles to the kitchen layout to the placement of a barbecue area.

...

"We never really wanted it to be a prefab," Mr. [Michael] Merz [spokesman for the Berlin company distributing the villa] said. "We want to position this as a piece of art."

Buyers will also be promised regional exclusivity, ensuring that they are the only ones in their neighborhoods with the design.

And don't forget, everything's symbolic! There are no renderings of The Barbecue Of Community, but here's a picture of the Sectional Sofa of Solace, criss-crossed by the Zig-Zags of Enlightenment.

The size, too, is important, 5,500 equaling both the number of passengers on the ship little Danny sailed into New York Harbor on as a boy, and also the drop in the Dow since the project began.

Libeskind Designs a Prefab Home [nyt via curbed]

wtc_stairs_tribecatrib.jpg

The Tribeca Tribune has some rather incredible shots of the last above-ground element of the World Trade Center, now dubbed the "Survivor Staircase," being moved on the back of a flatbed truck for the second time this year.

Though it was uprooted from its original site, and it has lost its original base, the stair treads, at least, are being preserved for eventual installation in the WTC memorial/museum.

Watching the care and effort being expended on this deracinated staircase's behalf, it's worth remembering their totally arbitrary post-9/11 history. Though they're revered as the only remaining fragments to survive the collapse of the World Trade Center, in fact, they're the only above-ground fragments to survive the demolition and clearing and headlong rebuilding of the WTC site. They were damaged during the site cleanup and appear to have survived because they were located on the periphery of an access road, outside the active construction zone of The Bathtub.

5wtc_stairs.jpg

The stairs were used to evacuate a day care center in 5 WTC, but when I posted about them in late June 2003 and for a long time afterward, they were apparently ignored. Architect Rafael Vinoly, who lost the competition to design the WTC site to Daniel Libeskind, betrayed no awareness of the staircase. In a speech that month criticizing Libeskind's overwrought reverence for the Bathtub's slurry wall--which had already been reconstructed and resurfaced several times by then--Vinoly went so far as to say that there was "no archaeology" left at the site, that every piece of architecture above and below ground had already been cleared.

It was only when they were finally slated for dismantling by the Pataki administration's Port Authority--with some of the treads being used for the memorial plaza--that preservationists and survivors fought for their future. Last summer, the Spitzer administration announced the compromise: to incorporate the stairs into the stairs leading down to the memorial museum.

As Avi Schick, then chairman of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation told the NY Times, the stairs would become an interpretive element so that memorial visitors are "experiencing the path of travel just as someone else experienced it."

More or less.

Survivor Stairs Moved Again [tribecatrib via curbed]
Previously: Archaeology at WTC Site

titarenko_shadows.jpg

Though I find Alexey Titarenko's City of Shadows long-exposure photos of crowds in St. Petersburg a little too melodramatic, Geoff's comment about them struck a chord:

But I suppose this is what the world would look like if we could see the residue of everyone who's ever passed through.
Though I'd probably say trace instead of residue.

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Choire's interview with Elizabeth Berkley reminded me of some unfinished Showgirls business here on greg.org.

Back in 2002, right after Beyer Blinder Belle released the first, banal master plans for the rebuilding of the World Trade Center site, a parody critique circulated in the style of Herbert Muschamp, then the architecture critic for the NY Times. Finally, here it is:

A Critical Appraisal
Special to The New York Times

Striding down the row of design proposals for the World Trade Center site, balefully eyeing each inert mien and artificially enhanced plan, I was reminded of the scene in Showgirls where the choreographer grimly surveys his topless charges. Flicking a feather across their assembled nipples, he scolds, "Girls, if you are not erect, I'm not erect."

Ladies and gentlemen, I've seen the master plan proposals from the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, and, to put it mildly, I'm not erect.

My heart sank as I watched John Beyer of the architectural firm Beyer Blinder Belle attempt to describe these hapless proposals. I was painfully reminded of another much more casual presentation one glorious autumn on Capri. The visionary Rem Koolhaas was holding forth on urban planning, shopping, life, and the smell of fresh basil. Wearing beautifully tailored trousers and a tight, cropped black top (need I add it was by Prada?) he gestured energetically as he spoke. With each gesture, his shirt rode up ever so slightly, revealing a tantalizing sliver of tan, taut tummy.

It is this kind of energetic gesture that those of us who care about contemporary architecture hunger for so desperately. Beyer Blinder Belle's work is occasionally competent: certainly their by-the-numbers renovation of Grand Central Terminal pleases the hordes of moronic commuters who stream through it each day, but it will come as no surprise that this recidivist pile of marble is of little interest to the infinitely more important audience of attractive young European architectural students who make pilgrimages to our city each year and can barely choke back their tears of disappointment. John Beyer, whose exposed torso would be unpleasant for even the more adventuresome New Yorker to contemplate, must shoulder the blame for this catastrophic failure.

It is now time to list these names: Frank Gehry, Peter Eisenman, Zaha Hadid, Elizabeth Diller and Ric Scofidio, Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, Steven Holl, and, of course, Rem Koolhaas. There.

Is a little daring, a little excitement, a little sexiness too much to ask for on this sacred site? Lower Manhattan Development Corporation chairman John Whitehead and New York governor George Pataki would do well to rent a videotape of "All About Eve" and examine Bette Davis's behavior before the big party scene. Her character Margo Channing reaches into a candy dish and hesitates again and again before finally popping a candy into her mouth. This tantalizing motif "impulse, surrender, gratification" is the central one of the twenty-first century. It alone must provide the ideological blueprint for all architectural work being done anywhere in the world, including lower Manhattan. If this fails to make sense to the theme-park obsessed corporate apologists for big business, so be it.

In the interest of full disclosure, my proposal for the site will be revealed at a time and place of my choosing. Fasten your seatbelts, New York.

Ignore, if you can, the glaring error that Muschamp would never have made: the choreographer used ice cubes, not a feather. The irony is that not only did Muschamp's writing the last few years before his too-early death seem to cut loose, as if to meet his parodists in the sky, the fake WTC critique turned out too true by half: thanks to a sycophantic 1776 minstrel show from Daniel Libeskind and a chorus line of starchitects flashing their tits, the Port Authority's original proposal is right on track.

[via mouthfulsfood]
Previously: Surely, Hordes of Showgirls-Googling Architects Can't Be Wrong?

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tape portrait of FDNY B.C. Dennis Devlin
23rd St, north side, between Park & Lex

Wow. Before he became known as Apartment In The Mall Guy, artist Michael Townsend was Tape Art Guy. Over the course of five years, beginning soon after the attack on the World Trade Center, Townsend and his friends created 490 life-sized silhouette portraits of people killed on Sept. 11th using painter's tape.

Sometimes working with permission, but mostly without, the Tape Art crew installed the portraits across Manhattan in locations that, when viewed on Google Earth, create the outlines of several overlapping hearts emanating from the WTC site. In an article last year for the 5th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the Providence Journal called the project, "the world’s first stealth-memorial."

The are a few execution problems with the project: the heart shapes are a bit too Hallmark-y, and the decision to create portraits only of certain categories of the dead-- airplane passengers, police and fire workers--feels like a missed opportunity to universalize the memorial.

One of the most powerful, visceral memorial ideas I ever heard was to place bronze plaques in the form of the "missing" flyers that blanketed the city's lamp posts and mailboxes and the walls around the 26th St Armory, which served as an early rescue center in the days after the attack. Townsend's ephemeral, handmade tape portraits dispersed throughout the city get close to the shared sense of loss, and it stands in diametric opposition to the isolated, concentrated, formalized notion of memorializing the dead at a central site.

I wonder how many of these are still around and how long they'll stay?

Tape Art: The Eleventh of September [tapeart.com]
The Art of Remembrance [projo.com]

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Since 2001 here at greg.org, 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 greg.org that time.

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Category: world trade center memorial

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