Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Monuments of Defeat: 9/11's Hole, Baghdad's Fill

Two monuments, two related meanings, two slurs on their surroundings-one from its absence in Lower Manhattan, the other from its overbearing presence on the Baghdad skyline. When has architecture spoken louder of the promise and failure of the American example, half-way through the “war on terror’s” first decade?

First, take ground zero in Manhattan. In four months, it’ll be five years since the attacks of Sept. 11. Back then, the rebuilding of ground zero appeared fated to be a reflex of American resilience. It wasn’t a matter of what would be built or how it would commemorate that day, but of how fast the 16-acre site and its hole would become a living part of New York again.

It took six years to get all seven buildings of the original World Trade Center built between 1966 and 1972, including the two signature towers, each rising more than 1,300 feet and 110 stories. We’ll be lucky if Freedom Tower’s 1,776-foot spire rises high enough to make a dent on the skyline before decade’s end. Politics, cronyism, bickering and a pile-on effect of what should be there (and what shouldn’t) have kept the hole what it has been since the last truckload of 1.2 million tons of debris was removed-a bedraggled construction site with nothing more than fits and starts to justify it. Read the full column...