A NY Times account of “Monument and Memory,” a panel discussion presented by the Columbia Seminar. Jewish Museum architect Daniel Libeskind cited his own powerfully programmatic work in arguing architecture’s ability to deal with trauma and memory. TheNew Republic’s Leon Wieseltier demanded a void and a flag, lashing back at Libeskind’s (and, by proxy, Architecture’s) reflexive “materialism” and egotism. (Libeskind apparently didn’t win many points for rhetorically bitch-slapping the pensive philosopher on the panel, either.)
While I tend to agree with Wieseltier’s ideas, he also did say (just a couple of weeks ago) that “what rises from the abyss of Ground Zero will become the most revealing American urban expression of our times.” Is that a void? I don’t think so. And a “void with a flag” cannot avoid instilling a sensory/emotional/political experience on its visitors any more than a didactic monument can. In Souvenir (November 2001), these two ideas–the preserved void (Lochnagar Crater) and the programmatic Memorial (Lutyens’ Memorial to the Missing)–are juxtaposed without finding a clearcut answer as to which “worked better.” [Here’s an account of shooting those scenes.] Libeskind turns out to be much more like Lutyens than I’d imagined. At least in architecture, there may be very little new under the sun after all.