Category:world trade center memorial

What kind of tool do you use for value engineering a half billion dollars out of your terrorist attack memorial project? Well, if you're Kevin Rampe, you use a Sciame. [rimshot]

The way Miss Representation sees it, Frank Sciame's busy doing a "leave no trace" rub-out on the key components of Michael Arad's original WTC memorial design. Naturally, the details, the process, and any sense of public accountability were the first casualties. But alas, it's a familiar tale:

In reality, it is exactly what it looks like: the latest in a series of putative decision makers, people accustomed to conniving and obstruction to get their way when not in charge and who then morph into tinpot dictators when they are (because, like, they are so much more talented the those other pretenders) but fail miserably because everyone else is being as obstructionist and conniving as they can be, in hopes that they are given a shot to be the biggest idiot in the room.
Meet Frank Sciame, architect of the WTC Memorial. [ via curbed]


There's very interesting reporting, but nothing too surprising or too comforting, in Joe Hagan's NY Mag feature on the complete disaster that is Michael Arad and his WTC Memorial design.

Within two weeks of the jury choosing Arad's design, it seemed clear that the jury and the LMDC wanted to design and alter the memorial as it wished, and that Arad's inexperience and youth--and the concept's many unresolved elements--were thought to be "the most amenable to their impending directives."

And within two months, there were stories of Arad not playing well with others being leaked by his LMDC overlords.

The only relief would be comic if it weren't such a serious topic. Hagan shows that Arad had patterned his violent, stubborn arrogance after that Organ Grinder's Monkey For Freedom himself, Daniel Libeskind, the guy who claimed victory for his concept at every step, even as his "master plan" was being altered out of existence, in large part by Arad's own contribution. [bonus Libeskind hissyfit quote: "I'll fight this! I am the people's architect!" You can take the boy out of Poland...] But without a Jewish Museum to beat people over the head with, or a steely wife to wield a cudgel in his wake, Arad had nothing but his empty, facile, original vision, which he defended at all costs. Check out Hagan's Arad-sourced description of the problem with a Port Authority-authored change to two central ramps into the memorial:

Although [Arad] didnít object to the central hall per se, having the ramp entrance there destroyed his notion of drawing visitors through a distinct walking narrative that focused on the experience of the pools, especially the initial breathtaking view at the bottom. Now that experience was marred by the tourist facility.
So who's responsible for this? I've wanted to see the Port Authority and George Pataki held to account from the beginning for the 10mm sf program-driven that has been millstone around the WTC site rebuilding effort's neck since day 2. And the best outcome I can forsee now is for the mess to continue long enough to dog Pataki into the political oblivion he deserves.

But there are other fingerprints on the scene, and they belong to Maya Lin, the original Minimalist Memorial Artist Intransigent In The Face Of Politico-Bureaucratic Meddling. Here's Hagan on the memorial jury's selection process:

In the secret proceedings, Maya Lin, the designer-cum-martyr of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, pushed for Aradís design; he could not have had a more meaningful advocate. If Lin recognized in Arad something of herself, if she saw in his design a connection to her own extraordinary monument to grief and memory, then maybe Aradís memorial was really equal to this tragedy. And maybe that would protect it from the conflict that had swallowed up every other inch of ground zero.
And maybe the Freedom Tower is really gonna be 1,776 feet tall, too. Or not.

Then there's this passage about Arad's final presentation of his revised, finalist's design:

Lin recognized the value in Aradís resistance. "Maya was able to set our sights on the kind of intensityóthe scrutiny and the kind of forces that were going to come to play on his design," says Michael Van Valkenburgh, a landscape architect who served on the jury. "We recognized a kind of stamina that he had. It seemed like it would hold up." (Lin declined to comment.)
I added the italics. Someone needs to get Lin on the phone.

The Breaking of Michael Arad
Previously: my inspiration by and reluctant criticism of Maya Lin & Minimalist Memorialism

December 16, 2005

Yin Xiuzhen's Portable Cities


Beijing-based artist Yin Xiuzhen's Portable Cities series are models of cities inside suitcases, made using the old clothes that city's residents. In her practice, she explores issues of globalization and homogenization, but also memory and transience.

In a way, her work reminds me of the nomadic Japanese artist Tadashi Kawamata, who constructs temporary structures, favelas, and whirlwind-like vortices out of scrap wood and junk he collects around the city. While they exist, they put into play issues of development and destruction and (im)permanence.

Anyway, Yin's sewn suitcase version of New York City from 2003 includes a shimmering, ephemeral version of the World Trade Center made out of what looks like mesh or organza or something. It's really quite nice.

via Regine, who has some links to Yin's work at the Sydney Biennial last year. Yin was also in "How Latitudes Become Art" in 2003 at the Walker Art Center. Her NYC gallery is Ethan Cohen Fine Arts.

And it's true that things have been worse down there...

but seriously, is there nothing that can be done to stop the slide into disgusting travesty that the George Pataki is permitting the Port Authority to perpetuate?

  • People who cared about art and culture and constructive memorializing sound like they hold no hope for the WTC site now.
  • The memorial's core feature--waterfalls into the voids of the footprints--will be turned off in the winter. Because no one thought of this before? Please.
  • Silverstein vs. Port Authority; empty office towers vs. a mall. If we'd known four three years ago the end game was to be a replica of the Jersey City side of the PATH train, would there have been an outcry?

    Controversy Still Clouds Prospects at 9/11 Site
    What does $1,000,000,000--"excuse me, make that $1.4 billion"--get you downtown? [miss representation]
    WTC Memorial Official: Waterfalls will close in the winter [dt express, via curbed]

  • Grr. Sometimes I don't know which is worse: the cloying, dishonest schmaltzfest of a master plan put forward for the WTC site by Pataki's democracy organ grinder monkey Danny Libeskind, or the de facto plan that eviscerated it, the one that's actually being built under political cover of Libeskind's handiwork.

    Then, I read about a 9/11 memorial he built in Padua, Italy, which uses the same bogus, headbanging numerological symbolism to beat its message into visitors heads--in this case, the debunked email spasm that claimed Nostradamus predicted the 9/11 attacks--and I feel relief that that opportunistic little Minstrel of Death won't leave a fingerprint on my city. [via archinect]

    Three years ago now, I cynically lamented the absence of a "Memorial Mall concept" from the Port Authority's poorly received master planning massing studies. I guess I should have been more patient.

    The Post reports on the PA's recently announced plans to develop "street-level retail" on the WTC site: "For one thing, a five-level retail galleria of the sort now in the dream stage exists nowhere in Daniel Libeskind's master site plan."

    "Manhattan's Most Respectful Mallô" [curbed]

    September 28, 2005

    Hallowed-er Than Thou

    Map of discovered remains from the WTC site, prepared by the FDNY and the NYTimesPartly because an International Freedom Center founded by George Bush's old friend and business partner wasn't a reassuringly hagiographic enough puppet, but mostly because it was personally expedient for them to do so, George Pataki and a dogpile of other sanctimonious politicians suddenly decided to defend the "hallowed ground" of the WTC site's "memorial quadrant" by banning the IFC altogether.

    "Memorial quadrant"?? If only the limits of this farce were as clearly delineated. How is that quadrant any more "hallowed" than the other eight-plus acres of the site? It seems like only yesterday that the "footprints" were the sacred squares that had to be defended at all costs.

    How and by whom was this quadrant defined? By the MTA, who cordoned it off in an effort to keep its sacred revenue stream as more than just a memory. And to whom are the MTA and its proxy, the LMDC, beholden? To the governor who just undid their three year's work on the IFC and the master plan "in a stroke."

    Are we done, then? Is this enough hallow now? The last three years' of machinations around the WTC site have reduced hallowedness to a negotiable, political commodity, apparently measured in square feet. Everyone involved in this process, from Pataki to Burlingame to Clinton to the slew of unions, has dishonored and demeaned the memories of the people attacked--and the people killed--on September 11th.

    Pataki Bars Museum From World Trade Center Memorial Site [nyt]

    [update: now that THAT's out of the way, the Port Authority has announced it will develop the first 500,000 square feet of retail on the completely unhallowed sections of the WTC site. This section, called the "Mall Quadrant," is across the to-be-extended (and equally unhallowed) Greenwich St. from the "Memorial Quadrant."]

    Officials Reveal Retail Plan for World Trade Center Site [nyt]

    September 11, 2005

    Technically, It Has Been Worse

    My daughter became very sad this morning as she tried to coax her day-old balloon up off the floor.

    It was heartbreaking to watch, and we tried to console her, but then I realized that on some September 11th to come, I'll have to try to explain far worse things to her about this date.

    September 11, 2005

    As Ronald Reagan Once Said,

    Are you better of than you were four years ago?

    Indeed, what's most shocking is not any particular mistake that was made but how often federal officials were left to brainstorm or hash out on-the-fly just what the federal government's responsibilities were, how to coordinate federal, state and local relief efforts, or even simply who was in charge.

    Reading those passages of the article, there's one conclusion I think any fair-minded person would have to come to. And that is that in the four years to the day since 9/11, the administration appears to have done little if any effective planning for how to mobilize a national response to a catastrophic event on American soil.

    And given all the history that has passed before us over these last four years, that verdict is devastating.

    Josh Marshall on the NYT's report of the government responses to Katrina.

    In the London Review of Books, writer Iain Sinclair sets out to visit the now-nearly invisible WWI memorials in some of London's train stations:

    The panels advertising the war dead are invisible to through-shuffling station users, clients of apathy. The false ceiling doesnít help. Nor the perch of CCTV cameras keeping vigil on the permanent queue for the cash machine. Search the list for a lost relative and you are bang in the middle of the surveillance frame. Cameras are spiked like hedgehogs. Anybody withdrawing money, buying a railway ticket, is guilty. You are in the stationís memory loop, on tape: part of the involuntary cinema of metropolitan life. This occulted corner is designed to be restless, to keep you moving. It bristles with the ëSecurity Awarenessí notices that signify a contrary condition: the impossibility of free transit. Exhausted travellers spurn the memorial plaque: 11 columns with around 86 names in each.
    Museums of Melancholy []

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    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.

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