For what it’s worth, here’s my view of the new World Trade Center Tower from my usual walk to the subway. It’s the tiny silhouette in the center with the two cranes on top forming a »V«.
I always get a bit of a lump in my throat when I see it. From all the drawings and computer renderings of it that I’ve seen, I cannot help but feel it will be an ugly, ugly building.
When I was a little boy growing up in Germany in the nineteen seventies, the Twin Towers were fascinating to me. I saw them in books, I saw them on TV, and the parents of a friend had actually travelled to New York and brought home a Super 8 movie of Manhattan and these Towers. I wondered if I would ever be so rich that I could afford going there.
It certainly was a boyish fascination I had with these highest buildings in the world. But when I found myself on a field in Scotland a little while ago, in a circle of upright stones that had been standing there longer than the pyramids of Egypt, it occured to me that there really is something to such vertical structures. Something I would call, for lack of a better word: human — partly ingenious, partly foolish, maybe just plain phallic, but certainly human in all of that.
By the time I first came to New York, the Towers no longer existed.
And it turns out they’re not needed anymore. Businesses are no longer as dependent on their geographic location as they were in the seventies; there is no need to concentrate everything on that small, narrow island of Manhattan — or anywhere else, for that matter. At the price which the office space in the new World Trade Center will cost if the building is to be profitable, it looks like few companies will bother setting up shop there.
The right answer to this, I think, would have been splendour. Something which the initial design by Daniel Libeskind had: A glass tower with a garden inside, reaching up to those symbolic 1776 feet, its shape resembling the Statue of Liberty across the harbor — now that would have been something. The design on which they agreed instead is about as ugly as US politics, and as inspiring as the abandonment of human space flight.
I could be wrong. When the Twin Towers were initially built, everybody seems to have hated them as well. The new building, when it is actually, physically there, might acquire a radiance of its own. And the United States, for that matter, have been able to reinvent themselves several times during their history already. It remains to be seen whether they can do so again.