9-11 Commentary:

    Today has been a difficult day. The events of last year had not been in the foremost of my thoughts until today. I guess before today they had been pushed aside subconsciously with worries about money, L-school, politics, and just life in general.

    But this morning that changed as I listened to NPR on my way to OCU for a day working at the computer lab. There were several programs about the aftermath of 9-11, but the one that most moved me was an interview with Jimmy Dunne (click here to hear the interivew online).

    Dunne was the sole survivor of the 3 member executive committee for the investment firm Sandler O’Neill. In the interview, he shared his experiences during that time and in the following year. I don’t know why, but something about hearing him speak shook me hard and brought me back to those days in San Marcos glued to the TV worried for my friends who lived in NYC. I had forgotten the feelings of unquenchable grief of that day, but hearing this hard-as-tacks New York business man fight off from breaking down on the air, the feelings came back fresh and raw.

    Yet, at the same time I was also moved me not just to grief but to awe, by the courage this man showed; his working harder than he had before to keep the firm afloat, and by his willingness to do the interivew in the first place.

    Most of all, what resonnated for me was what Dunne said in response to a query from the interviewer concerning what he thought should happen to the WTC site.

    Dunne said he thought one of two things should happen… either they rebuild the WTC as it was, or they should build a new UN headquarters there so that all of the world’s leaders would meet in that place to stand up for what is wrong and to condemn what is wrong. (His words were so much stronger than my memory of them.)

    I think Dunne is right. Now is not the time for timidty but courage. The tragedy certainly should be memorialized, but more importantly NYC needs to come back stronger than ever architecturally and culturally in the Downtown area.

    The NY Times shares my sentiments surprisingly enough (and I think most New Yorkers feel this way too, given the dismal response to the tame plans that were presented earlier for the WTC rebuilding.) and has two incredible stories in this weekend’s NY Times magazine on the history and possible future of the WTC…

  • NY Times Magazine: Towering Ambition — In the epic story of how the towers rose, their fall was foretold. — This story is very long, but tells in detail how the WTC came to be, the design flaws in it, but also the design successes that kept the buildings standing long enough for so many to escape alive.

    Here is one picture from the story showing the WTC towers under construction:

    One thing that stood out about hte story was this portion about WTC architect Minoru Yamasaki…

      Yamasaki started off by canvassing the grid of Radio Row streets: Greenwich, Cortlandt, Vesey, West Broadway, Church, Liberty, Dey. He strolled past the grand Hudson Terminal buildings, turn-of-the-century twin towers that had themselves once been the largest office buildings in the world. He felt little sympathy for those buildings, or for the many others that his project would soon raze. Nostalgic radio buffs might bemoan the loss of the legendary district, but Yamasaki was unmoved. ”It was quite a blighted section, with radio and electronic shops in old structures, clothing stores, bars and many other businesses that could be relocated without much anguish,” he later wrote. Yamasaki’s verdict on Radio Row: ”There was not a single building worth saving.”

      Repeated walks around the Empire State Building helped determine another basic choice. It was the tallest building in the world. But when you strolled the sidewalks near its base, Yamasaki noted, you could almost miss it. The trade center would be different. ”There was a wish and a need to be able to stand back from it, to see and comprehend its height,” Yamasaki wrote. These prerequisites — which happened to coincide exactly with the Port Authority’s wishes — dictated that the project had to start with a vast empty lot, the interior streets eliminated, and that the building or buildings would rise from a broad, open plaza. But the question of how many buildings, where they would be placed, what they would look like and how tall they would be — that all still needed to be decided. So Yamasaki’s staff built a 10-foot-long dark gray mock-up of Lower Manhattan displaying everything from City Hall to the Battery, right down to the miniature freighters and tugboats on the Hudson.

    On my first time to visit to New York City by myself, Yamasaki’s vision of the great towers rising from a broad open plaza made a great impression on me. On that trip, I had taken the Path train from New Jersey to Manhattan and got off the train at the WTC train station (the Path Commuter trains operated by the Port Authority had their main NYC station underneath the WTC). I then spent a long day exploring NYC, mostly downtown, visiting Trinity Church, riding the Staten Island Ferry, etc.

    At the end of the day, I strolled through the giant plaza between the two twins towers of the World Trade Center before catching the Path Train back to Jersey. I remember being awestruck at their immense beauty and the incredibleness of human beings to create such structures. I also remember watching a piece of paper twirl around and around in the plaza, being moved around and around by a little whirlwind. (the giant towers seemed to create lots of wierd whirlwinds by their immense shapes) Strangely enough, in the midst of such great towers, it was downright peaceful there on that chilly fall night.

  • NY Times Magazine: Don’t Rebuild. Reimagine — Now is the time for New York to express its ambition through architecture and reclaim its place as a visionary city.

    This story wanders around a bit (kinda confusing in its flow) but the ideas behind it are stunning. I commend the NY Times for undertaking this ambitious project and I hope the city and the Port Authority take their ideas to heart. The plans developed by the NY Time’s architects are breathtakingly beautiful and more bold than any skyscraper I have seen in my life.

    I also am pleased to see the ideas to develop more housing and business in the area. I do think that moving West Street underground is a great idea, and could help to move more of the human-level community vibe downtown.