They released what is about the fiftieth final design for the new World Trade Center replacement this morning. Looking over the renderings and the descriptions of the new building, it’s pretty much lost all of the elements, symbolism, and meaning of the orginal Libeskind design.
Personally, I never liked that design anyway. I thought it was a bit contrived, I thought the symbolism of echoing the Statue of Liberty was wrong. (Besides, it just it looked funky.) The twin towers of the orginal World Trade Center had their own symbology, when they were built they were the tallest in the world, a “look at what we choose to do” mentality. “In fact, we’ll build it twice.” It’s that spirit that was attacked when the 9/11 terrorists chose to hit our financial and military centers. (And potentially governmental depending on where the United flight was going). Some say that is an attack on our freedom, but I believe it was more an attack on our will. The September 11 attacks haven’t curtailed our freedom as Americans. Only we can do that to ourselves. What they were attempting to do was frighten us into giving up those freedoms through fear, because they believe us to be weak willed. Will is applied freedom.
What we choose to build back shows what our will has become. What we choose to build back is the legacy of our answer for what happened on September 11.
Now I’m not advocating what Donald Trump has proposed (in a publicity stunt prior to the finale of the Apprentice), building back exactly what was there before–one foot taller. But I do think that this latest design is getting closer to what we need to build. Now, all they have to do is do a copy/move in their cad program, build a second tower and we’ll be on the right track. Remember…We built the Pentagon back exactly like it was. And that was without any debate at all.
But that’s not going to happen. This last redesign was the result of the fear that the building was too close to a major street and thus too accessible to being taken out with a truck bomb. The fact is, whatever we build will be a target. Short of not building anything at all, there’s no way to eliminate all risk, which is what the committee responsible for design (always a mistake) has chosen to be the driving factor. What the project has always needed was a person with the vision and the will to see it through. Currently the only thing providing this leadership is the fear of another 9/11. Perhaps that’s not a fair assessment, because there are hundreds of factors to consider, most notably for this project to work economically people will have to feel safe inside the new buildings.
But I think the economics of this project aren’t as important as getting the symbolism right. If these buildings that we build back sit empty for decades, we still will have said to the world (and the terrorists), “You may try, but our resolve is firm.” The world won’t care about occupancy rates. Just the images they see in the paper.