September 11, 2013
1 WTC from Sixth Avenue in Chelsea on a June evening. (Photo by Karrie Jacobs.)
Yesterday I was mostly thinking about the primary elections here in NYC. And not about the twelfth anniversary of 9-11. Then, last night, we emerged from a party at Pravda, thrown by Pentagram, in honor of a book of drawings (of Joe McCarthy!) by Arline Simon (Emily Oberman’s mom!), and saw the Tribute in Light framing a fat crescent moon. I was reminded of how smart, simple, and moving the Tribute in Light is.
Now, more than a decade later, the building that was once called the Freedom Tower is finally nearing completion. Mostly I look at it from Sixth Avenue, in Chelsea, when I’m walking from SVA DCrit on W. 21st Street to the L train. It occupies the spot in the sky that used to be filled by the Twin Towers.
Admittedly, I didn’t warm up to the old WTC until the mid-1990s. I didn’t see the beauty in it until I started running on the Brooklyn Bridge and noticed it reflecting the morning light. And maybe, a couple of decades from now, I’ll start to see the beauty in the new 1 WTC. So far, it doesn’t strike me as smart, simple, or moving. Mostly, it looks like what it is: the product of too many compromises and too many bad decisions. Most recently, the building’s co-developer, the Durst Organization, opted to save $20 million by eliminating the decorative “radome” from the tower’s spire. According to Blair Kamin of the Chicago Tribune, eliminating this element might make the WTC tower’s official height come in at 1376 feet instead of Libeskind’s emblematic 1776 feet. In other words, this symbol of our determination to rebuild bigger and better may technically be shorter than the Willis (nee Sears) Tower, not to mention myriad less consequential skyscrapers across Asia.
P.S. While we’re on the subject, check out Ann Rhoney’s moody photo of the old WTC. And Pentagram Papers 41.
P.P.S. Here’s my column on Newark’s Passaic River Waterfront from Metropolis. And my profile of Philly architecture firm ISA (the 100K house) from Architect.