Monday, February 19, 2007

Freedom as a Tower

Freedom Tower "curtain wall" — clear views of airplanes?

In today’s New York Times, architectural critic Nicolai Ouroussoff attempted a last-ditch rally against the design of the Freedom Tower in Manhattan. He described the working design as “a barricaded fortress” and a “clumsy bloated form” that speaks of “paranoia.” Many other people have take similar views, but the project has moved forward. The construction of the tower’s foundations has begun. Unless New Yorkers finally stand up and shout it down, a brain-dead, 1,776-foot office building will stand beside the footprints of the destroyed WTC towers. Here are some renderings of the project (the images are from the Skidmore, Owings & Merrill website for the tower).

A general view — designed to look like a dart so it won't look like a target?

The 20-story concrete bunker base.

Harbor view — New York giving the finger to the world?

West plaza — are those gravestones along the curb?

Fascist-style lobby with big paintings — uh, where's the security?

Here's a comparison building, the Shanghai World Financial Center, with a planned height of 1,614 feet, now under construction (image from China Daily):


John said...

What would be your preference in design for the site?

Bob said...

Not being an architect, I wouldn’t attempt to suggest a specific design solution. However, I think that defining the WTC site by means of a signature skyscraper is a mistake. It’s a tired architectural trope for a site that ought to be innovative and future-looking.

Furthermore, the concept of a Freedom Tower is empty theatrics. In what ways does a building like this represent freedom? In any case, as actually designed, the Freedom Tower is schizoid, all bluster at the top and fearfulness at the base.

I also think it’s a mistake to fill out the site with a chorus of large buildings that have no architectural distinction, no cohesion, and no sense of occasion.

I think a better symbolism for the site would be a team of buildings that are individualized to a degree but clearly share fundamentals and draw strength from each other—a proclamation that the sum is more than the parts. Also, I think the design should draw on city planning expertise as much as architectural skills. A project conceived this way (and carried out with talent, of course) could make the WTC site a center of architectural and social energy rather than a bulky commercial real estate project tricked out with symbols.