[Apropos the publication of two new books dealing with the shameful catastrophe that is the rebuilding of the Ground Zero site New Yorker architecture critic Paul Goldberger's book, Up From Zero, and freelance journalist Philip Nobel's book, Sixteen Acres and the buzz surrounding both books (here, and here, for two instances), I thought I would reprint an old weblog post of mine from February 2003. It herewith follows without further comment by me.]
It must be admitted that the Studio Daniel Libeskind design the just announced winner of the LMDC design competition for the reconstruction of Ground Zero meets to largely satisfying degree the crucial requirement of this site; embodies what the site must ultimately reflect and be. As I wrote previously concerning the then still in-progress design competition:
This occasion, this opportunity, this opportunity of opportunities, is not one for a contemplating of the anti-heroic. Whatever design finally emerges as the winning design for this site must be, at all scales and in every element, a veritable paradigm of the heroic; a paradigm of both monument and symbol unambiguously monumental, and unambiguously symbolic so that all who encounter the site from whatever conceivable vantage point can never mistake it for ordinary architectural space; can never be in doubt about precisely what it represents; can never, for even an instant, look on it or experience it as mere commercial or civic enterprise. And that must be true not only for NYC residents and gawking sightseers, but for all the world.
Now that the winner has been chosen, however, the back-and-forth bickering that before rose not much higher than a background murmur will now rise to a barely muted roar, and it will be heard. As things are shaping up even at this very early stage, it's already clear that at the final accounting the pimps and the politicians will ultimately have their way, and whatever disconnected and bastardized fragments of the original design remain will simply not be worth bickering about one way or another.
Whatever the aesthetic faults or merits of the Libeskind design (and there are sufficient of both), if built, it ought to be built in toto in strict accordance with the architect's original vision, typical and expected degrees of post-original-design adjustments of course excepted. That vision, after all, is presumably what won the design the competition a competition for the most significant architectural project of the last 100 years, and perhaps of the next 100 and therefore that vision ought to prevail. To have it not prevail would, of course, make a joke and charade of the entire design competition process, but much more importantly, would rob the ultimately finished project of any semblance of genuine aesthetic and symbolic integrity, and that simply ought not to be contemplated, much less countenanced.
But unhappily, what ought or ought not to be is pure armchair theorizing in such cases. As always in matters where political power and huge amounts of commercial money are at stake, the gulf between what ought to be and what will be is so vast as to be unbridgeable, and the handwriting is already beginning to show upon the wall.
The Libeskind design will never be built.