We have always maintained that if anybody had faith in the current master plan for downtown then the developer who is taking the financial risks should be given a free hand to build whatever he wanted at Ground Zero — even the world’s tallest parking garage.
Little did we know that Larry Silverstein would actually do something very similar.
The newly designed Freedom Tower has 20 stories of fear at its base — a 200 foot high, unoccupied concrete block to protect itself against truck bombs.
This of course is unprecedented in New York real estate where views are everything.
And the Freedom Tower in theory should have the most spectacular of views — overlooking a national memorial with no obstructions whatsoever. The whole Libeskind plan had called for the memorial to be in a sunken piazza specfically so there would be great views.
And views cut both ways. The excitment of New York has always been that windows look both ways. So now the view from Ground Zero will not be the inspired office tower rising phoenix like from the ruins, it will be a 200 foot high concrete block. You can’t hide this sin with curtains — even if they are high tech light emitting.
It’s little wonder that Nicolai Ouroussoff in The New York Times pans the design in a review headlined, “A Tower of Impregnability, the Sort Politicians Love”
To show just how low the debate has sunk on thinking of this memorial Ouroussoff evokes the dreaded Nazi comparison noting:
But if this is a potentially fascinating work of architecture, it is, sadly, fascinating in the way that Albert Speer’s architectural nightmares were fascinating: as expressions of the values of a particular time and era. The Freedom Tower embodies, in its way, a world shaped by fear.
It is indeed kind of scary looking at the similarities between the Freedom Tower and the Nazi Pavillion designed by Albert Speer.
The irony of this is that business have fled for decades the dark and dreary confines of downtown for the bright and airy midtown grid. The windowless Freedom Tower is even worse than the dreariest of downtown buildings.
But the past may be the future for New York architecture.
Both the Mets and Yankees in the last few weeks unveiled ballparks in the concrete bunker motif.
The fact that such extraordinary steps have to be taken in order to get the Tower built should raise red flags.
New York has never come to terms with the fact that Ground Zero is world transforming battlefield. Battlefields are never selected for that purpose. They just happen. Traditionally those fields are protected so generations hence can understand the lessons.
A fancy new cathedral would not have the same power as the bullet ridden Alamo in San Antonio. A fancy cruise ship pier would never carry the lessons of the sunken Arizona in Pearl Harbor. A big convention center would not improve the power of the Hiroshima Dome.
Downtown does not have a massive park. If Ground Zero were to become such park, downtown would build towards it and revive on its power. Building a tall tower because we feel we “have to” is not the New York way. Greed built the city’s tall towers.
The big mistake in our tag line is that Ground Zero should be protected as a park and not as a grand building experiment.
This entry was posted on Thursday, June 30th, 2005 at 10:56 pm and is filed under News, Freedom Tower. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site. Edit this entry.
4 Responses to “20 Stories of Fear At Ground Zero”
June 30th, 2005 at 11:35 pm e
Thank you for this post.
July 1st, 2005 at 11:23 am e
Wow. This column is so far off I don’t even know where to begin. OK, let’s start at the end: “Downtown does not have a massive park.” I guess that depends on what you mean by “massive.” Downtown actually has a string of excellent, sizable parks. To name the most obvious example, Right across West Street, BPC has 35 ACRES of riverfront parks with views of Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty, and magnificent sunsets. And, if you read the news, then you will know that in a few years, the East side of Downtown wll have a riverfront park of its own to match. Of course, there is also historic Battery Park, which is currently being restored by a conservancy to its former splendor. There is the newly restored City Hall Park. And there are a bunch of wonderful little squares and plazas, remniscent of Europe, such as Bowling Green and Hanover Square. I’m sure I’m missing some good examples.
In any event, even the green space on the WTC Site will not become a “park” in the traditional sense, as the more politicized members of the victims’ family groups have used all of their influence to make sure that the new memorial space shall be inaccessible to local pedestrians, office workers and residents. It will be a dead space. Eight acres of dead space in the middle of the City is better than the 16 acres of dead space you propose.
Of course, what Downtown needs to bring it back to life is not to transform it into a giant cemetery, but to bring back the JOBS. That will require restoring the 11 million square feet of A-grade office space lost on 9/11. The Freedom Tower may not be the greatest design in the world, but it is a step in the right direction.
And the new design looks nothing like that NAZI architecture. That is just a cheap shot by you and Mr. Ourousoff, and an ugly one at that.
michael parekh on IT
July 1st, 2005 at 11:48 am e
ON FREEDOM TOWER ADDENDUM
TO A NOT-SO-STORIED FUTURE The 911 Memorials Blog had an interesting take on the final Freedom Tower design (courtesy Sweaty Blog)…recommended.
July 4th, 2005 at 5:55 pm e
I completely agree with BPC. Thank you. An insult is never complete without the dreaded “Nazi” reference! Why sink so low?