June 20, 2005

Imagining Ground Zero

I have really enjoyed reading "Imagining Ground Zero : The Official and Unofficial Proposals for the World Trade Center Site." This book chronicles the actual bureaucracy involved in developing the site, has spreads of all sorts of ideas and plans, and addresses some of the deeper issues at hand in relation to "the skyscraper." The idea of Ground Zero as a "medium" wasl eaped on by all kinds of artists, architects, and citizens. This book attempts to sort out exactly what that means. It also includes chapters explaining the winning proposals, The Freedom Tower and Reflecting Absence. It is difficult for me to understand architecture, but I happen to like Raimund Abraham's unofficial submission which involved 15 modest skyscrapers divided by four slabs marking the sundial times of the plans hitting, and then the building falling. While doing some research on it I found his response to the hysteria...

"Q: I am interested in hearing your critique of the project at Ground Zero, as well as hearing your explanation for the design you proposed.

A: There was no hope from day one that the commercial world would really go for an architectural gesture that would be as radical as the event they claimed 9/11 was. Instead of saying, “Okay, now Mr. Silverstein, let’s get you some architects to build the most efficient commercial buildings there,” they tried to cover their intentions by saying, “Okay, now we need architecture. From day one, the project was a disguised commercial site plan. It is very clear that when the pragmatic force starts to dominate that process, they will do whatever they want and then more or less declare the imprints of the two commercial towers as sacred because of the original event. I think that is blasphemy. It’s a fake… you see thats what I called it at the beginning: the necessity of architecture to celebrate the sacredness; this is just the opposite. Its fake sacredness."

On one hand I agree, yet there is a part of me that is also really attracted to memorial architecture. When I think of the Vietnam memorial, I see a memorial space that seems to really work. It is apolitical, yet gives a sense of the immensity of the event. The scratching of the names seems to really serve peoples' pilgrimage and closure. We deserve the same for Ground Zero.


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