It’s impossible to head to Manhattan from anywhere in New Jersey without seeing The Hole. The Hole mean “Where the Towers Should Be.” No building, no matter how fantastic, can ever fill The Hole. You would have to build the Towers up again – perhaps, this time, in gold cladding, rather than silver.
The Towers were more than a landmark – they were a marking of the land, a talisman, a promontory used to align one’s travels to and on the island. Now that negative space is the monument. The only fitting occupier of that space is the Tribute In Light, beams of light, shooting up into the heavens.
Very, very true. They were not very attractive buildings, actually, but they were orientation beacons and more. I used to check air quality by glancing downtown at the Towers. It was easy to see by the haziness or clarity of the view just what you were breathing that day. They also gave the whole island a very particular silhouette. And the grouping of buildings that was built around them, designed with them in mind — particularly the World Financial Center with their different domes, which are very attractive buildings in my opinion — lost its coherence once they surrounded The Hole.
The new building looks to be at least as unattractive as the old ones without their iconicity.
The task of designing anything for that space is daunting. A different monument of what “ought to be” is in each person’s mind. I am a little more detached, since I live so far away. Building around the footprint of he towers, treating that as sacred space, makes sense to me. The towers were not beautiful. They were boxes. It is hard to build a skyscraper that is not a box.
It seems nearly everybody is opining on 9/11 today. Some are using the anniversary to argue over the course taken since then. Some are saying we should put it behind us, while others say we can never put it behind us. I suspect the latter position is held firmly by those who experienced the attacks firsthand, who smelled the acrid smoke and brushed off the dust in the days which followed.
But most Americans were not at Ground Zero. We experienced it as we have experienced so many tragic events – through television. Ten years out is about the point that events lived through start to move from experiential into history. We are all just beginning to put that day into context.
It was great to stand at the bottom and look straight up.
And Philippe Petit did them a huge favor; he sort of spiritualized them . . . added a touch of fairy dust to what were very pragmatic structures. Before his walk, they were pure commerce (or commerce hybridized with hubris); after, they had a glimmer of fantasy.
The best part about the Towers was the ride up to the top, in those elevators that had a pressure differential as you entered them, because of the vacuum of air being pulled from the top.
The Windows on The World, especially when it held Cellar in the Sky, was also a truly magical place. The food was great in Windows; in Cellars, it was extraordinary at times. But the view from that restaurant! To dine on top of the WTC was truly a magical experience, one of the great reasons to visit NYC in the late 20th Century.
Actually visiting the *offices* in the WTC was a different story. Unless you were in an office with a window, you might as well have been in any corporate rabbit warren – with the difference that you would have to walk down dozens of flights in case of a fire alarm.
The Towers seemed to be show up in every movie shot in Manhattan during that period, as well – the visual proof that the film was set in New York. When they were built, they were supposed to be the Rockefeller Brothers’ Great Pyramids. (Anyone else remember when we called the Towers “David” and “Nelson”?)
I also agree with you, Amba, on two points: they were not attractive, but became almost beloved *because* of their stark, blunt, preposterous bland monumentality. (It certainly look like the new “Freedom Tower” is going to be the Ugly Tower.) And, yes, Phillip Petit bore them aloft into the realm of transcendence. The film, “Man on Wire” is a wonderful documentary of the event. But the children’s book, “The Man Who Walked Between the Towers,” captures the true spirit of the feat …especially the last illustration, which shows Petit walking on a tightrope suspended between the memories of the Towers, nothing more.
I don’t think America will ever build their like again, not in our lifetime.
And certainly America will never build that way again. I read a lot about the contribution of architecture to the collapse and the contribution of greed to the architecture: the floors were innovatively suspended from the skin. There was no core — mainly to increase rentable square footage. Add burning jet fuel, and you had pancake batter.