BIG kicks Foster off 2 WTC?

Norman Foster's 2 WTC design, left; Bjarke Ingels of BIG, right. (6sqft.com)

Norman Foster’s 2 WTC design, left; Bjarke Ingels of BIG, right. (6sqft.com)

The idea that the developers of the 2 WTC megalith – the last major skyscraper of the World Trade Center rebuild – might send Sir Norman Foster packing delights me. The idea of booting the architect even as his tower rises in early construction brings a hint of rose to my cheek. That Lord Foster may be swapped out for Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) as recipient of the big wet money kiss makes it even better.

That, anyhow, is the speculation in “2 World Trade Center May Ditch Norman Foster’s Design for a Bjarke Ingels Skyscraper” on a New York website called 6sqft.com, which ruminates on Big Apple real estate. The matter appears to rest on whether Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. and 21st Century Fox decide to take up residence there. (So why, if conservatives are so traditional, doesn’t Murdoch want Bob Stern?)

Talk about come-uppance! Foster is starchitecture’s greatest old fart. In this his chief rival is his fellow knight of the sceptred isle, Sir Richard Rogers. Both lag far behind Renzo Piano and Rem Koolhaas in the battle for the leading edge of cool. Both lack the latter duo’s kooky monikers, not to mention the kookiness of their architectural styles. But Bjarke Ingels has both the kook and the glitz.

If he (or it) knocks Foster off the WTC podium, it may suggest that the primacy of modern architecture’s most knowingly obtuse and thuggish cohort is on the wane. The founding cohort might have harbored thoughts of a new machine-age architecture benefiting mankind, but its successors, who took over the profession and turned architecture into the butt boy of pirate capitalism, can have had no such illusions, and have used totalitarian methods to maintain their dominance of the field.

Every phase of mankind and its activities cycles through changes brought on by how age reacts to time. Architecture is no different. I came across a most excellent rendition of this from Roy Lewis on the TradArch list yesterday:

We’re just witnessing the emergence of the first crop of cradle-classicists … , the ones taught by the self-taught. They are still setting roots. They have a facility that most of the older crowd lacks, sometimes accompanied by an unbecoming certitude and sense of mastery. For the most part, they are still young; in architectural terms we are still witnessing their juvenalia. At a similar age Aalto was still working in a classical idiom, and Corb was just completing the last of his early villas. The mature work of the current crop may be more exploratory, I don’t know. I think there is a generational aspect, and the time is right for branching out.

Of course, Roy’s thoughts track the growing nuance of traditional practice. Perhaps BIG, and certainly such reasonably decent modernists as Peter Zumthor, track the growing nuance of modern architecture. I’m not saying I think modern and traditional styles will – or should! – meet at some point in the middle. Yet it may be worth hoping that at some point the profession’s most powerful modernist practitioners will be more open to competition from traditional practitioners.

Not that Bjarke Ingels is anything but idiotic. He recently stated:

Architecture at its best is really the power to make the world a little more like our dreams. You take something that is a wild idea, like pure fiction, and you suddenly change it into hard fact.

In your dreams, Bjarke! – as the rest of us continue to suffer living nightmares fostered by the creations of your ilk. Still, having BIG knock Sir Norman off his ridiculous WTC feedbag is certainly a step in the right direction.

Hats off to Timothy LeVaughn for sending the 6sqft piece to TradArch.

About David Brussat

For a living, I edit the writing of some of the nation's leading architects, urbanists and design theorists. This blog was begun in 2009 as a feature of the Providence Journal, where I was on the editorial board and wrote a weekly column of architecture criticism for three decades. Architecture Here and There fights the style wars for classical architecture and against modern architecture, no holds barred. My freelance writing and editing on that topic and others addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts, and a member of the board of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which bestowed an Arthur Ross Award on me in 2002. I work from Providence, R.I., where I live with my wife Victoria, my son Billy and our cat Gato. If you would like to invest your prose with even more style and clarity, please email me at my consultancy, dbrussat@gmail.com, or call 401.351.0457. Testimonial: "Your work is so wonderful - you now enter my mind and write what I would have written." - Nikos Salingaros, mathematician at the University of Texas, architectural theorist and author of many books.
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2 Responses to BIG kicks Foster off 2 WTC?

  1. Pingback: BIG guilty of copying the future | Architecture Here and There

  2. Pingback: Ungainly BIG steps skyward | Architecture Here and There

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