Justin Shubow, president of the National Civic Art Society and a monthly contributor of architecture criticism to Forbes.com, has hit his stride. His latest essay, Towering Infernal, written for the Weekly Standard, is about the last building planned at Ground Zero, Two World Trade Center. It is being designed by the Viking-wannabe* Bjarke Ingels, a Dane living in New York City who founded the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG).
More on him and it soon. First I’d like to quote Shubow on what’s already been built on what may be the “16 most sacred acres” in America:
The well-known design of Freedom Tower (officially One WTC) by David Childs is that of a glass skyscraper that narrows as it ascends, each of its chamfered sides sloping inward. It tops out, anticlimactically, in a flat roof pierced by a scrawny radio pole. The work is reminiscent of a syringe, and is just as inspiring. The other buildings on the site are Three WTC by Sir Richard Rogers and Four WTC by Fumihiko Maki. Both are snoozeworthy generic glass office buildings.
How sad, so odiously and rendingly sad, that the classical proposal for Ground Zero designed in late 2001 by the firm of McCrery, Lohsen & Franck, was never built. It was publicized by the Manhattan Institute’s quarterly, City Journal (“What Should Arise from the Ashes“), but the entry was apparently not accepted into the WTC design competition (won in 2004 by the absurd Daniel Libeskind) because it was considered “not of our time.” Or so I have heard. I have no proof. (Any help out there?)
The tenants for 2 WTC will be 21st Century Fox and News Corp., owned by Rupert Murdoch, whose son James is taking over his pa’s organizations. He was put in charge of the building’s design, it seems, and he gave the boot to Sir Norman Foster (yay!) but then chose the even more egregious Ingles for the job (boo!). What that may say about the future of “tilt” at Fox News, I am in no position to say and have no desire to speculate.
Speaking of evidence, one of the delightful things about Shubow’s essays at Forbes is the mountain of sourced evidence he brings in to buttress his opinion. His Weekly Standard piece on BIG’s 2 WTC proves that he doesn’t always need much research to indite a fully compelling denunciation of his target. Of which, speaking of tilt, he writes:
But Two WTC is a failure for a more important, and simple, reason: It looks like it is about to topple over. It doesn’t take an expert eye to see this; it doesn’t even require conscious judgment. When we see something off-kilter, our intuitive understanding of the forces of physics causes us to worry about its stability. We also know, subconsciously, that cantilevers are sites of mechanical stress, with millions of pounds of weight challenging a building’s structural integrity. That the tower appears to be tilted is not my imagination: Ingels admits that it “feels like it’s a completely straightforward tower, but then there’s something weird going on, that it seems to lean with One World Trade Center.”
To build a weird tower seemingly on the verge of collapse at the site of the former World Trade Center goes beyond bad taste; it constitutes gross negligence.
As the man says, you don’t need expertise, or research, to determine that a building looks like it might fall down. And if it looks like it might fall down, then it’s more likely, other things being equal, to fall down. Isn’t that what it’s all about at Ground Zero? Gross negligence, indeed, I’d say – to say the least. Sometimes the truth is surrounded by a bodyguard of lies, but sometimes it just stares you in the face. No, it does not always take an expert. Sometimes it takes a clown. Not a Viking. A clown. A BIG clown.
Thank you, Justin Shubow, for being on target. Again.
*A Viking-wannabe seeks to lay waste to the built environment.