Monday, September 26, 2011

Metamodernism at Ground Zero

One World Trade Center Versus the Memorial Pools

The spectacle is not a collection of images, but a social relation among people, moderated by images. *

The tragedy is that the original surreal and fantastical Libeskind design was subverted by the developer Larry A. Silverstein who with Skidmore, Owings & Merrill architect David A. Childs - despite all the hype to the contrary - reworked the Libeskind spiraled asymmetrical trapezoidal building into a perfectly ordinary vertical structure.

The Libeskind design versus the Childs design for One World Trade Center

It may be politically incorrect to criticize the New World Trade Center site at this point in time, though everyone knows that the entire process of development has been mired in controversy and argument between the LMDC (Lower Manhattan Development Corporation), and its various component organizations and architects during its entire history. Despite Libeskind's protestations to the contrary, his original design is barely recognizable. Never the less, here I go. One World Trade Center will not be the original 1776 feet tall twisting and off center foil to the Statue of Liberty’s raised arm and torch, as envisioned by architect Daniel Libeskind. Instead, it will be truncated to approximately 1300 feet with a tragically needle-thin and weak decorative tower stuck on the exact center top in a vain attempt to reach the reiteration of our nation’s founding. Additionally, the twenty story base is unfinished because Childs’ overworked complex idea for translucent prismatic glass walls was impractical and, quite frankly, impossible to achieve. It is not amazing to this author that well-financed corporate and social forces have destroyed the originally creative artistic vision, as it seems to be a national practice to subvert the very creative power that once made the nation great.

The Memorial Pools, a video made by Crazy Dark One on YouTube at "," Viewed 10:30 AM EDT, Sunday, September 25.

At the same time – despite the arguments between Arad, Libeskind and others - the design for the commemorative pools and museum by Michael Arad and Peter Walker is stunning. Arad had to fight like a maniacal tiger to keep his design intact, and did alienate many of those surrounding the project including his partner in the design concept, Peter Walker. Never the less, the design, two pools surrounded by a forest grid follows the footprint of the original towers, but implodes into the earth with shimmering curtains of water that flow into a reflective pool and then disappear into another square void, a wonderful flight of the imagination and beautiful testament to the immense loss we feel as a nation and as individuals. The design is a triumph of the human spirit over the loss that exploded into our homes and work places that clear September morning in 2001.

These two structures, One World Trade Center, and the 9/11 Memorial Pools, embroiled in partisan controversy and internecine warfare create a metaphor, an oppositional paradox that is an enigmatic representation of our national state in this metamodern recapitulation of the twentieth century complete with a national economic tragedy equal to the Great Depression. I maintain that the Great Recession is equal to the Great Depression because the numbers of displaced people and the financial destruction wrought upon upper-middle class, middle class and working class Americans far surpasses that calamity. At the same time corporate America amasses trillions as the Republican Party plays Marie Antoinette to the splintered ineffective Democratic Party. One Trade Center stands in for our Twenty-first Century inability to save ourselves from our own mistakes. At the same time, the triumph of the human spirit represented in the Arad and Walker commemorative pools and forest represents the transcendence we must attain as a nation in order to heal the extremely splintered division we experience at the beginning of the second decade of this century.


* Debord, Guy, Society of the Spectacle, Black and Red, Detroit: 1983.

Hagan, Joe, “The Breaking of Michael Arad,” in New York Magazine: Art. Taken from the Website at, 10: 12 AM, EDT, Saturday, September 24, 2011. (May 14, 2006).

Libeskind, Daniel, Website homepage at Viewed 9:35 AM, EDT, Saturday, September 24, 2011.

Libeskind, Daniel, Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, Last modified 12:24, September 20, 2011, Viewed 10: 19 AM, EDT, Saturday, September 24, 2011.

Lower Manhattan Development Authority (LMDC) Website,, © 2002-7. Viewed 10: 27 AM, EDT, Saturday, September 24, 2011. Images used one time for intellectual purposes are thought to be legal within United States copyright law.

9/11 Memorial Museum Website, 10:00 AM, EDT, Saturday, September 24, 2011. Images used one time for intellectual purposes are thought to be legal within United States copyright law.

1 comment:

Undecided said...

Seeing the original vision next to what is left of it makes me a little sad too.