Thursday, December 19

Everyone's applauding -- a bit too eagerly, I think -- the new designs for the World Trade Center. I like the idea of citizens' input, although it seems like a strange concession even under these circumstances. How many city structures are shaped by design advice from Joe Blog in Minnesota? (Check out these helpful hints from America's armchair architects.) But I guess that's the trouble here. The WTC is no longer just an office block or a civic space. It has to serve as a memorial, too -- in the words of one of the development officials, "The architects have responded with great depth to the question, 'What does Sept. 11 represent?'"

It's architecture as national healing. It's also architecture in a rush -- the owner is still coughing up annual rent of $124 million, even with two gaping holes in the ground -- which pretty much kills any hope of a memorial park being developed, rather than twin tower knock-offs. Only one of the proposed plans features a substantial swath of undeveloped land, but what are the chances Richard Meier's open spaces will get a go from them that pay the bills?