Category:world trade center memorial

August 18, 2005

If I Can't Have You...

I've gotten some pretty angry emails since my International Freedom Center post comparing GWB's cult of infallibility to Kim Jong Il's. Most of them single out my insensitive characterization of 9/11 family member Debra Burlingame as a toady, unwitting or not, for the current administration.

I'm no pundit, and I don't honestly know why anyone cares what I think, but let me say it straight out: I think both the IFC and The Drawing Center should be removed from the WTC site as it's currently planned. From the beginning, I've thought they were, respectively, an awkward, artificial, potentially controversial sham born out of political expediency, and a wholly inexplicable, inappropriate mis-fit with the site. Both institutions were canaries in the coal mine of the WTC rebuilding process; that they're now controversial and should not be part of the WTC Memorial should've surprised no one observing this Georgian (Bush or Pataki, pick your poison) mess.

So on the basis of outcome alone, I would say that Burlingame and I and Jarvis--and now the FDNY, apparently--can agree on the most appropriate outcome: no Other Centers at the World Trade Center site. We only disagree on the reasons (i.e., the politics) why.

Burlingame has repeatedly put herself, and by implication, the families of 9/11, at the service of GWB's political agenda. In this case, that agenda is served by deflecting responsibility for the Snohetta Centers debacle away from the Bush/Pataki crowd who made this politically exploitative bed. And every time the stalking horses of "America-bashing" and "liberal, politically correct" historical revisionism are cited as the reasons for these institutions being cut--and no mention is made of Pataki et al's long record of pandering and political manipulation of the WTC rebuilding process--that obfuscatory agenda marches on.

Did you know George W. Bush shot a miraculous 11 holes-in-one on the first round of golf he ever played? This and other such signs of his divine leadership in the face of terror will soon be on display, if Debra Burglingame, in her infinite wisdom, permits it. She campaigned for Bush, though, so I'm optimistic.

Freedom Center's Place at Ground Zero in Question

Santiago Calatrava's desgin for a WTC site transit hub has been altered for security reasons. The soaring wings and the glass atrium? Gone, filled in with concrete, to match the new "beak" and solid concrete wall surrounding the joing. According to the NYT's achingly diplomatic David Dunlap, the new design "will almost certainly lose some of its delicate quality, while gaining structural expressiveness. It may now evoke a slender stegosaurus more than it does a bird."

But didn't birds evolve from dinosaurs, not the other way around?

Approval Expected Today for Trade Center Rail Hub

July 19, 2005

The Withdrawing Center?

Well, that's one way to keep the memory of September 11th alive. Remember how people had these stories about how they were supposed to be at the World Trade Center, but then for whatever reason, they didn't go? And how lucky they felt?

Well, now you can add The Drawing Center--and possibly the Joyce and Signature Theaters to that list. The Drawing Center is putting its move and development plans on hold until it gets assurance that its curatorial program won't be subjected to LMDC or any other governmentally mandated censorship.

In related news, the Freedom* Center, which is to share space with the Drawing Center, "in response to a request by Gov. George Pataki, has assured the LMDC that its content wouldn't be un-American."

* offer not valid if it displeases anyone named George.

Drawing Center may quit WTC [crain's, via curbed]

July 6, 2005

So September 10th

Hmm. I don't really know what to make of this. In the months after September 11, when no one knew what shape the WTC site would take in the future, but when people were at least entertaining the possibility that architecture and contemporary art might be able to make some sense of what'd happened, John Powers' ideas from a show about memorials earlier that year kept coming to my mind.

He proposed aggressively political minimalist gestures for sites in Manhattan (Penn Station, the now-defunct East River Guggenheim) and DC (the WWII Memorial) that upset prevailing notions of public space, spectacle, sentimentality, order and control, and history, among other things. [Although more successful and uncompromised by virtue of its sheer impossibility, Powers' proposal for a WWII memorial eerily prefigures Michael Arad's original fountain pit design, transposed to the end of the Reflecting Pool on the Mall.]

Powers never pursued any direct responses or proposals to the WTC site, either for Max Protech's early display of (as it turned out) architectural impotence and hubris, or for the WTC Memorial 'competition.' Still, I thought of Powers when I saw Ellsworth Kelly's collaged proposal for the WTC site--a NYT aerial photo with a trademark Kelly trapezoid superimposed on it.

Meanwhile, I followed along (or obsessed over, take your pick) the WTC rebuilding issues and saw the craven folly and political machinations unfold before my eyes--and anyone elses? I often wondered. Then I found Philip Nobel's book Sixteen Acres, the first unsentimental look at what was actually transpiring behind the scenes and in front of our still-teared up eyes. It's harsh in places, mostly as it should be, and I only wish it could've brought some things to light sooner. It's the same kind of weary wishfulness that allows you to entertain fleeting thoughts of disaster averted, "what if we'd--" and "if only we'd--" before snapping back to the grim reality of our political failures.

Anyway, I only bring this up now because a friend showed me Powers' early 2001 invite with details of his projects and then pulled out their own copy of Sixteen Acres. [They're scanned side by side above.]

I am a solid fan of both peoples' work, but there was clearly something going on in the design process for Nobel's 2005 cover which needs some explaining. The frontispiece says "Design by Fritz Metsch, Map by David Cain," with cover design by Raquel Jaramillo. But to me, it's clearly John Powers' work.

Buy Nobel's excellent Sixteen Acres : Architecture and the Outrageous Struggle for the Future of Ground Zero at Amazon
Previously: Ellsworth Kelly on Ground Zero

UPDATE: I emailed Philip Nobel about this. Here is his reply:

Thanks for the heads up. I've been on both sides of this sort of
accusation before (this time, I guess, I'm a bystander). But I can
assure you there was no foul play. Re "explaining to do": Before the
book was written, the Holt art department had cooked up something that
looked like a Bob Woodward book (still posted around online in spots).
My editor and I didn't think it made sense with the feel of the
finished thing, so we cooked up the idea of a map (sitting in her
office on 18th Street; no graphic cues on hand). I said "black" and
that it had to go as far north as possible (in the spirit of that
Borges quote and the first lines of the prologue), and she said we
should just box out the shape of the site like a symbol. Raquel worked
from those directions. She's good people, and i don't think so mobbed
up in the art or architecture worlds that she would have seen your
friend's work, which, of course, looks really interesting. I imagine
"map" led her to an aerial view, "black" led her to the one in
question, and "box out/symbol" led her to treat the site as she did.
You know from reading the book that I'm all about seeing the worst in
our fellow men. But this sort of convergence reminds me of the recent
forced frenzy (Lock was tracking it) over Freedom Tower cognates. Might
it not just be a case of two people with good taste seeing the graphic
possibilities of applying a color field (red, an obvious choice) to
what appears to be the same publicly available (via the Library of
Congress) image?
Also, timely but not quite directly related: With Covers, Publishers Take More Than Page From Rivals [nyt]

" [G]round zero is not really being shaped by architects; it is being shaped by politicians."

"[Freedom Tower] will be seen by the world as a chilling expression of how we are reshaping our identity in a post-Sept. 11 context."

[ouroussof, nyt]
">Redesign Puts Freedom Tower on a Fortified Base [nyt]

George Pataki demanded "an absolute guarantee" that no one be offended by what goes on with the cultural organizations at the WTC site. That's frankly offensive.

I love that the problem here is couched in terms of politicians' "difficulty of policing artwork," not in terms of, say, "a blatantly anti-American demagoguery that mocks the very idea of 'freedom.'"

Pataki Warns Cultural Groups for Museum at Ground Zero

Upset that the Wall Street Journal is having all the fun, what with all the Bush Republican-campaigning sisters of dead Sept. 11th pilots demagoguing about whose "truth" is in and whose "propaganda" is out at the WTC site, the New York Daily News tried to gin up a controversy of its own about, of all things, The Drawing Center.

At least the critics of the International Freedom Center's are sophisticated (sophistry-cated?) enough to demand that no politically distorted manipulations of "history" or "freedom" be allowed to cloud the memories of the people who were killed on Sept. 11th. [Except, of course, the revealed truth of the Gospel according to the Bush Administration, but who'd ever doubt that? Terrorists and their friends, that's who.]

Left to pick up the crumbs of the new Political Correctness table, the Daily News got suddenly outraged at "anti-American" art--four pieces that have been critical of George Bush or the US--shown at The Drawing Center since 2001, and "demanded" that something be done about it. Doing his best combover and his steeliest resolve, George Pataki declared that he'll never let any anti-American art be shown at the WTC site.

Governor, I know Rudy Giuliani. Rudy Giuliani was a pandering, fascistic, constitutionally guaranteed freedom of artistic speech-trampling mayor of mine. And you sir, are no Rudy Giuliani. Not for lack of trying, though.

Nutty 9/11 Art Nixed [nydn]
Meanwhile, the NYDN, for one, welcomes our new government overlords [nydn]
Get the Picture, Governor? [nydn]

Previously (06/2004): WTC Site Cultural Anchor: The Drawing Center?? Ironically, the Daily News cites the vast, painstakingly investigated and researched [!] schematics of the late artist Marc Lombardi. The work they complain about maps out ties between the George W. Bush's Harken Energy, the Saudi royal family, and the Bin Laden family. The title says, "fifth version, 1979-1990." It was made in 1999. Lombardi took his own life in 2000.

bobby_shower.jpgLike some architecture critical version of Bobby Ewing. [Or is it Pamela? Whichever.] In this week's New Yorker, Paul Goldberger writes about the horrible dream he just had: Pataki and the Port Authority were railroading their 10mm sf uber alles program through at the WTC site, resulting in pointless, tenantless, characterless office buildings with marginal cultural facilities wedged in around their base, and a memorial that was little more than a front yard for some jingoistic, politicized ego-booster called the Freedom Tower.

Not only that, but Goldberger's own master plan--an "Eiffel Tower for the 21st Century"; acres of experimental, affordable, and much-in-demand housing by innovative young architects; built around a deep, solemn, Libeskind-esque void of a memorial--had inexplicably not moved any closer to realization.

How did this happen? [note to any SVA Parsons students, apologies for making you imagine your dean naked.]

A New Beginning/ Why We Should Build Apartments at Ground Zero [ny'er, via cut-n-pasting monkey at wiredny]
Previously: "The Eiffel Tower for the 21st Century" [PG on Studio360 01/13/2003]

What is missing at ground zero is a sense of humility. This is something that cannot be remedied by reducing the scale of a building. We should refocus attention on what matters most: remembering the human beings who were lost at ground zero, while allowing life to return to the void there. The rest is a pointless distraction.
-Nicolai Ouroussoff, discussing the inherent problems with the current redevelopment and memorial plans for the WTC site, which he notes has been parcelled out to different political constituencies and filled with clutter.
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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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Category: world trade center memorial

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