December 8, 2003

Kimmelman on the WTC

"Ladies and gentlemen of the jury: now that everyone agrees that the ground zero memorial finalists are a disappointment, there's only one thing to do.

Throw them all out.

You have the power to do so. Use it. This is in part a memorial to extreme bravery in the face of overwhelming force. Here's a chance to be brave. We know you still haven't presented your winning choice, which will no doubt be modified from the plans we now see. But don't bother. Nothing short of extreme, last-ditch action has a chance of succeeding, because the process has been crucially flawed from the start. Instead of beginning with a firm idea about the meaning of the memorial, we started with a timetable. Instead of guaranteeing that the best artists and architects participated in the process, we pandered to the crowd."


But he goes on to endorse a return to the usual (architect star) suspects:

"But good art, like science, is not democratic. An open competition can produce a Maya Lin Vietnam memorial once in a generation, maybe, but mostly it results in the generic monuments that are now the universal standard: stereotyped images plagiarizing superficial aspects of serious art, mostly minimalism, for watered-down symbols of mourning and loss."

But Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers had a chance to shine in the open competition for the Centre Pompidou (friends, please correct me if I'm wrong here), and with some research, I'm sure I can find a few more examples of this type. Competitions have been closed for many years now, and I don't think the best work arises consistently from the media whore echo chamber that it is. (Lost a little composure there, sorry!)

Remember, the WTC tower competition was limited to the usual suspects and that was a bit of a let down too. I think we rushed that one as well, and look what we got. Maybe we should leave the site be for a decade more to think a little more deeply about it. What's the rush? The vacancy rate of the original towers was high anyway. We are just waking up to a new world. 9-11 is a lot bigger than we think, and our approach should be proportional to its' significance.

Posted by Dennis at December 8, 2003 6:01 AM

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