Remembrance of a Future or, I Have Not Managed to Change the City


Architects are optimists to their core, even the cynical ones. I have dubbed a good friend of mine practicing architecture in LA the Benevolent Misanthrope. He is far and away one of the most cynical, clever, talented, and witty people I know. Behind and through this cynicism he crafts beautiful buildings and spaces with an unmatched sensitivity to detail. His words say one thing but his work speaks something immensely different, exposing his glorious optimism. I would link to his web site but fear he might be angry with me for "outing" him.

We architects strongly believe in the possibility of The New to make positive and substantive improvements to society and the world around us. If there is one global assumption that can be made about good architects it's this one.

Yet... there can be a downside to our Panglossian state. Some very well known architects have succumbed to the Janus face of unchecked optimism via solipsism, extreme ego, and blind passion for making New Things.

Take Corbusier as one well known example. He was simultaneously a true visionary with some of his projects yet positively wooden with others, especially on an urban scale. He was notoriously insistent that his ideas were the only ideas that mattered. With this mindset he proposed radical, brutal, and drastic urban re configurations based on form and ideology and absent context and the experiences of the end user. His Plan Voisin embodies his most egregious example of an attempt to overlay extreme formal ideas and a newly imagined, idealized, untried urbanism onto Paris. If Georges-Eugène Haussmann was provided an opportunity to remake Paris in the 19th Century, by Corbu's logic, Le Corbusier was owed his due in the 20th.

 Model image from  Foundation Le Corbusier . I have a VERY hard time picturing this in the middle of Paris.

Model image from Foundation Le Corbusier. I have a VERY hard time picturing this in the middle of Paris.

If you have spent any time in Paris it's impossible to imagine anything less than the complete obliteration of the character, history, and texture of the city if it had been subsumed by Corbusier's "Neighbor Plan." Fortunately his vision was neither embraced nor implemented in Paris.  It wasn't until the next generation of architects when some of these new urbanism concepts would be applied on the scale of city; enter Noisy-le-Grand, a banlieue east of Paris. 

From a purely architectural and urban laboratory standpoint Noisy-le-Grand proffers the opportunity to simultaneously experience a fascinating formal idea and a problematic urban reality. 

This article delves into the post-Utopian status of the numerous architectural and urban leaps in Noisy-le-Grand. It'a a great showcase of images by Laurent Kronental who has been photographing this unique urban environment for close to a decade. One of the architects tasked with designing some of the buildings in Noisy-le-Grand was Ricardo Bofill. In 2014 he was interviewed by Le Monde and stated, "(I) have not managed to change the city."  The Le Monde interview is suffused with disappointment. I get a sense from M. Bofill that he acknowledges that in spite of his best intentions the spaces and buildings of his hand had not the positive impact and effect he sought and imagined.

I wonder if presented with another opportunity to design in Noisy-le-Grand how M. Bofill would approach it? I would bet that the form and programmatic exegesis would change but the optimism would remain.

Architects have the ability to make radically positive change yet many architects with only the best intentions have made some terrible creations.  We must always endeavor to not become ideologues, pure aesthetes, or too stubborn about what we know (or imagine we know) and imagine possible.

Jefferson's Dovecote Gets Its Due (Almost)


    Copy of Jefferson's drawing found  here .

 

Copy of Jefferson's drawing found here.

From an Only In America Magazine comes word that Thomas Jefferson's plan for a dovecote has finally been completed over 230 years after he designed it. I say "almost" above because it's not constructed at Moticello but realized nonetheless. The power of drawing persists. Marks on paper transcend time and remain relevant. Great stuff.

Tokyo National (Olympic) Stadium - 2 New Proposals [Updated]


 Option 'A' on the top, Option 'B' on the bottom.

Option 'A' on the top, Option 'B' on the bottom.

After this past summer's very public breakup between ZHA and the Japan Sport Council (JSC) over the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Stadium, images for two new stadium options have been revealed. Conspicuously missing in the press release, the name(s) of the architect(s). See here for images of the new proposed stadiums and here and here for background on the fallout between the two parties. 

Briefly, the JSC claimed that Hadid's design was too expensive and not possible to construct on time or budget. ZHA vehemently disagreed with this assessment of the project and counterclaimed that the bidding and pricing process was mismanaged. It also appears that a number of well known Japanese architects circled the wagons to insist that a Japanese architect provide the design for a Japanese national stadium. Lastly, the form of the stadium was criticized (unfairly in my opinion) as looking like a vagina and / or a bicycle helmet.

Wait. What?

 ZHA National Stadium proposal.

ZHA National Stadium proposal.

Such disparate associations projected on the form of the structure must be an architectural Rorschach test exposing the observer's penetralia for all to know. I'll leave the specific psychoanalysis to the professionals. 

Regardless, it will be interesting to see which of the two designs will be selected, who the architect is, and more compelling, will the venue be completed on time for the 2019 Rugby Championships and then the 2020 Olympics?  Time will tell.

[Update]

Kengo Kuma, winner winner (Option 'A')

Sir John Soane's Private Apartments Now Open to the Public


 The almighty section

The almighty section

This house fascinates.  From the Hogarth's to the Piranesi pieces, the busts, relics, ancient artifacts, disappeared pendentives on the shallow dome, and the mummified cats found entombed in the walls, the public can now see Sir John's private apartments not open since the 1860's. Be sure to scroll through the images at the bottom of the article.

On any trip to London this space is a must see.

Underpinning Philadelphia


 'A' pour complete. 'B' pour awaiting arrival of the concrete truck.

'A' pour complete. 'B' pour awaiting arrival of the concrete truck.

One of the inevitable conditions arising in urban construction is the need to underpin adjacent building foundations. For the uninitiated, underpinning is a process whereby you support your neighbor's building with a new deeper footing beneath their existing footing because your bottom of footing needs to be lower than the neighbor's.

In this case it's a relatively straightforward process to support a minor load from the the adjacent single story warehouse next door.

Duplexellence 3.0 is on its way.

Drawings From Underground

 3 views of Waterloo Station

3 views of Waterloo Station

Friends and family always ask me how I seem to know instinctively which way to navigate through subway systems from underground to street level. It's because I imagine a spatial map in my head of the relationship between the street and the train tunnels when transiting between the subterranean commuter world into the sunlight and back. It's a little game I play with myself.

Lo and behold, Transport for London has created axonimetric drawings of the stations of the London Underground system, much to my delight.

A few of my favorites below.

 

The axonimetrics are oddly reminiscent of Tschumi's Manhattan Transcripts drawings and in some cases appear as subterranean realizations of Antonio Sant'Elia drawings (some examples below).

The station drawings can also be easily imagined as nodes within Guy Debord's "Discours sur les Passions de L'Amour".  If I can make some time I might try my hand at proposing a Psychogeographical Guide to London using the Tube station drawings as a starting point.

It would be great to see a similar effort exerted towards the NYC subway stations and our fair SEPTA system here in Philadelphia.

City as Protagonist - 01


 Bombed out Vienna cathedral, 1948.

Bombed out Vienna cathedral, 1948.

Recently I've become a bit obsessed with movies that use the set or location of the film not only as a backdrop but allow it to operate as an active character in a movie's plot.

Cities can make for great protagonists in fiction and story telling. Cities are the repositories of countless experiences, places of joy and desperation, great good and evil, beauty and vulgarity, profanity and God, amongst villainous company and angels alike. They persistently exist as ready made fictional characters and fecund sources for narrative exploitation. 

The catalyst for this new found interest was recently having the opportunity to view The Third Man projected on the big screen. Trailer for restored film follows.

Filmed in 1948 and released in 1949 this film has been canonized as a nes plus ultra of film noir for good reason. The narrative compels, there's scintillating cinematography allowing the film to show rather than tell,  the actors are radiant (especially Orson Welles), and the Anton Karas soundtrack creates a delightful and unique tone and atmosphere. The film is unthinkable without Karas and his Zither, as another character in the mix.  Prominent throughout this film are exterior shots of a war devastated Vienna. Shells of buildings, run-down damaged interiors, mounds of building rubble, and oddly vacant night time streets. The cinematic use of dutch angles and harsh lighting that produces extreme shadows cast upon the buildings of Vienna heightens the sense of the place.

 Dutch angle and streets as set.

Dutch angle and streets as set.

 Chase through rubble, leaning building shell in background.

Chase through rubble, leaning building shell in background.

 Shadows and urban backdrops.

Shadows and urban backdrops.

It's a rare opportunity to be able to witness a moving visual record of a post WWII European city while still in recovery mode from Allied bombing damage. This film allows a small glimpse of an urban post apocalyptic landscape providing stark witness to what happens when war becomes diplomacy by other means. Without the decrepit streets of Vienna as supporting actor this film would not be as significant, well considered, and remembered as it is. This viewing experience leaves a mark in the imagination. 

I'm intentionally not mentioning the sewer scenes as it is my understanding that most of those shots were not on location and were filmed on set in England. They are beautiful images but for me not specific enough to the urban space of Vienna.

Lastly I would be remiss if I didn't provide links to a few more youtube clips:

 

OPENING CREDITS and THE SOUND OF 1948 VIENNA

The long goodbye and farewell Vienna.

Art & Armies


 Capella Sistina

Capella Sistina

Below is something that I often consider when thinking about what is important in life. History looks favorably on efforts and expenditure in the arts. Those of us who participate in the creation of new things should be optimistic about our roles in society. Hopefully my choice to join the creative flow will prove to be meaningful and lasting.

Ingrid Rowland is one smart, learned and observant person. Revel in her light.

Rome and the Vatican Library provided more than their beauty and their eternity. On January 1, 1508, a rumpled academic from the university named Battista Casali gave a speech before Pope Julius II beneath the blue vault of the Sistine Chapel studded with gold stars—where in a few months Michelangelo would set up his scaffold to paint the ceiling we know today. Casali declared on that occasion that the greatest weapon against the Ottoman Turks, the era's most aggressive superpower, was this same Vatican Library. He meant not only its copies of the Bible and the Church fathers, but also, and especially, its Greek and Latin classics, the works of Plato, Vergil, Plutarch, Horace, Sappho, Sophocles, Cicero, Aristotle, Vitruvius, the authors who exercised, instructed, and comforted the mind and soul. And despite the fact that Casali's oration revolved around a clash between religions, he also meant the Arabic writers who had preserved Aristotle throughout the Middle Ages and invented algebra. Ottoman Turkey, as he well knew, was anything but a know-nothing Islamic state, and Islam in those days was no enemy of culture.
Casali found support for his position in what now might seem unlikely places. The Vatican Library's most enthusiastic patron in 1508 was also the most important member of Casali's audience: the Pope himself, Julius II, the Papa Terribile, the pope who sank as much money into the construction of St. Peter's basilica, Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel ceiling, and Raphael's frescoes as he did into his notorious military expeditions. And there is no question, five hundred years after Julius's election in December 1503, about which investment, armies or art, has proven the shrewder.

- November 4, 2004: Ingrid D. Rowland, NYRB

Herein lies the epitome of the power of the relationship between imaginative thinking, visionary leadership, the production of art, the design of buildings and spaces, and the library. Books, creativity, and art are devices for peace and sustain humanity throughout time. The Papa Terrible is anonymously best known for his patronage of the arts not for his war making to the average Vatican tourist. 

With the current Pope visiting Philadelphia in a few weeks I can't help but contemplate his position in the papal lineage. Francis the Terrible? Hardly. Based on his tenure to date I imagine he's more a supporter of art than conflict. Francis the Kind Patron? Lover of books and art? I wonder what creative endeavors he's supporting today that will be viewed as favorably in 500 years as Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel accomplishments. History will tell. The world needs more visionaries.

  After the Battle of Marignano, drawing by Urs Graf. Almost no one remembers when or why this happened or cares about it.

After the Battle of Marignano, drawing by Urs Graf. Almost no one remembers when or why this happened or cares about it.

34. To Live In An Idea Is Wealth Not Measured In Money


 Berlin Tower photo from  here .

Berlin Tower photo from here.

A young architect friend of mine recently asked me what he should read to better understand the work of John Hejduk. It's a good question without an easy answer. This list of observations on the Berlin Tower goes a long way in appreciating what Hejduk accomplished and provide a keyhole view into the enormity of his work. It's an amazing read.

I really can't add much more to the above article. My only quibble would be about item #53. I don't see these "ornaments" as stars, but as crosses. Take a look, you decide. Besides this, the author's enumerated experiences and sensations are a nearly perfect way to discuss how one can understand and how one inhabits a Hejduk building. The author shares insightful observations and an intense internalization of one of Hejduk's very few built works.

Thank you, Shuman Basar for writing this. I hope to meet you one day, drinks are on me.

Postgreen Getting Some Well Deserved Recognition

Chad and Courtney Ludeman of Postgreen Homes are recognized in this month's Philly Magazine as being  two of the Best Philadelphians. A well deserved and hard earned appellation.

 Duplexellence 2.0 facades. 

Duplexellence 2.0 facades. 

They have been doing tremendous development in Philadelphia and have made amazingly positive contributions to the built environment here. They have established a model for development that puts most other developers to shame. There's a way to make things beautiful and to encourage great design and not be a scumbag about it. This is one of many projects spearheaded by the visionary people at Postgreen. I strongly encourage you to take a look at their website to understand what they are accomplishing.

I've been exceptionally fortunate to work with Chad and Postgreen on a number of projects. The Philly Mag article mentions a project that I designed called Duplexellence II that can also be seen on my website here, photo above. 

Keep a lookout for Duplexellence 3.0.

The Return of Fecal Alley

 Taras Shevchenko Place (aka Fecal Alley) and its immediate environs.

Taras Shevchenko Place (aka Fecal Alley) and its immediate environs.

This just in from the New York Post.

I lived on East 6th St. in view of this piece of New York City in the early 90's, a shortcut street between 7th and 6th Streets best not traveled, day or night. It always reeked of urine and human feces, was littered with empty small plastic vials that crunched underfoot, and provided a "home" for aggressive crack heads at night.  By the end of the Giuliani administration the street became a much more civil and less malodorous space. Midway through the Bloomberg administration the homeless, the druggies, and the creative class of the East Village were moved out, policed out and priced out respectively and Fecal Alley was not just no more, but unthinkable. Yet today what's old is new again.

It was also the back side of the erstwhile Hewett Building at 41 Cooper Square that housed Cooper Union art students' studios along with the student lounge with a TV that seemed to always be playing Spanish language soaps, Roseanne reruns and hosted Peter Cooper's billiards table, which I fear is now lost to posterity.

But alas, the "lowly" Hewett building was deemed superannuated, demolished, and replaced by a monument to a group of imaginatively bankrupt trustees and a CU president in the service of ego and unrealistically hopeful pecuniary pursuits. It's a memorial to incompetent leadership, an eduring edifice on the CU campus presiding over Cooper Square as the physicalized obituary to a lost institution, and a headstone marking the remnants of the last collegiate meritocracy in the U.S.  See here for an updated appraisal of the situation. 

 The headstone.

The headstone.

The one time rarefied CU environment, a place that brought together talented, motivated, madly creative students from amazingly  diverse backgrounds who earned a place in the student body based on their abilities alone ceased to exist with the first tuition paying class. The last true academic meritocracy, the last bastion of the ideal academic village, gone. 

 41 Cooper Square - View through typical university calssroom to St. George Ukrainian Catholic Church on Fecal Alley.

41 Cooper Square - View through typical university calssroom to St. George Ukrainian Catholic Church on Fecal Alley.

I can't help but wonder if Taras Shevkenko Pl. returning to its ignominious status as Fecal Alley reflects the decay of the institution it abuts. It can't possibly be exclusively the product of current mayoral incompetence, the turpitude of humanity or the destructive remnants of the Occupy Movement. Cooper Union has been a fixture in the neighborhood since 1859. It exudes influence. It's current internal and significant malaise must effect its immediate environment. Much of what I read and assimilate from the Save Cooper Union people and the administration alike feels like the the beginning of the end of this once great place.

My sincerest hope is that the new as of yet appointed president, new trustees and other leadership positions in the university can restore CU to its previous status as a free, fully endowed institution of creativity that exists for all those who are capable of gaining admittance entirely without regard for whether or not the student can afford the tuition. The appointment of the new Dean of the Architecture program is a great start.

These Three Mortal Things

Rome is struggling. Not in its position as a tourist destination but as a living, thriving, healthy, growing urban entity.

 Nolli map fragment - Piazza Navona and Pantheon in the top left quadrant.

Nolli map fragment - Piazza Navona and Pantheon in the top left quadrant.

From the article:

"The Eternal City is facing crisis, with its administration engulfed in corruption scandals and debt, its roads scarred by pot-holes, the main airport partially closed and a growing immigration crisis.

For generations, the Italian capital has rested on past glories rather than built on them but now its multiple problems have come to a head.

...

"Rome is on the verge of collapse," Giancarlo Cremonesi, the president of the Rome Chamber of Commerce, told Reuters.

"It is unacceptable that a major city which calls itself developed can find itself in such a state of decay."

A survey by the European Commission two years ago placed Rome last out of 28 EU capitals in a ranking for the efficiency of city services.

Despite great food, superb coffee and an enviable climate, on an index of quality of life, the capital came second to last, with Athens at the bottom.

Its Renaissance churches, cobbled streets and vibrant piazzas still wow tourists from around the world, but beyond the historic centre, the city is a mess and life is a struggle for locals."

I imagine the average tourist passing through the city for a few days likely won’t notice much of the contemporary decay. In addition to the food and the people, the shambolic conditions of much of the city exist as congenital components of its charm. As a Rome neophyte in my 20’s I couldn’t help but be delighted by the explicit proximity of the ancient, the twisting streets, 7 hills, run down aging buildings, glorious ornamented structures and new construction.

Rome’s current malaise described in the Telegraph reminds me of Lord Byron and the Venerable Bede:

 “While stands the Coliseum, Rome shall stand;

When falls the coliseum, Rome shall fall;

And when Rome falls – the World.”

Are current events in Rome cause for concern?

From ancient times through the mid-20th Century Rome managed to episodically assert itself in a massive way as a place where innovation, creation and change was possible. Testament to its primacy in the ancient world lay in the ruins of ancient Rome’s civilization. Rome largely missed the Renaissance but charged forward with the next generation of artists and architects and established itself as the center of baroque creations. In the 20th Century (although vey short-lived) Mussolini attempted a new Roman dominance in altering the city in an attempt to assert itself as the 3rd Rome. 

 The Coliseum (still standing) - The Ancient

The Coliseum (still standing) - The Ancient

 Borromini's Saint'Ivo - The Baroque

Borromini's Saint'Ivo - The Baroque

 EUR - The Fascist

EUR - The Fascist

The lifeblood of any city rests in its ability to move forward and evolve. It’s about adaptation and not trying to preserve a specific period of time in perpetuity. The new must manifest itself while not entirely obliterating built history and sense of Place. As the past 2,500 years have shown us the evolution of Rome unfolds on a different time scale than the rest of the world. Byron saw Rome as

This long-explored, but still exhaustless, mine

Of contemplation;

A wellspring of introspective thought persists among the piazzas, churches, and winding topography. Spend 30 minutes in and around the Pantheon and you'll understand. Rome has been and remains a slow space not susceptible to the frenetic pace and on-demand culture of the typical western 21st Century lifestyle. The continuous existence of Rome requires a long view and beseeches civilization to be patient. Hopefully we are not at the beginning of the end of Rome but just awaiting the current Rome to shed its chrysalis of corruption and contemporary decay and emerge anew. Maybe I'll be lucky enough to see it in my lifetime. Maybe not. Considerations of the significance of a single lifetime diminish when evaluated against the lifespan of the Eternal City.

Upon a Stage - Dilworth Park

Forms projecting from a plane and objects in a field. Convex roofed cafe / subway entrance, 2 glass rectangular scoops with ramp stairs ushering commuters in and out of the SEPTA station below, pavement fountains, a rumored yet to be installed light installation in the ground plane?, curved granite benches, The Lawn, small seating areas, various planters, an elevator billboard, the plane itself and lastly, alas, the south end of the park is incomplete.
Where to start?


The Fountain (of course)

As delighted as my 4 year old son is splashing amidst the intermittent streams of water and as much as I it will be an oasis and a welcome cool respite in the summer, it’s a fountain idea that’s been executed before, derivative of similar fountains in the Krymska Embankment Fountain Zone, there’s this one in Singapore, one in Perth, various Disney fountain extravaganzas, fountains at the Southbank Centre outside the Royal Festival Hall, London,  the Beaverton, OR City Park Fountain and an enlarged version of the Sister Cities Park fountain down the street, just to name a few.

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Confronting a Specter – The 9/11 Memorial and Site

  WTC 2 memorial site with museum in background.

WTC 2 memorial site with museum in background.

Positively no remnants of the previous incarnation of the World Trade Center site remain in its re-imagined recreated self. Logically I know that the memorials occupy the two footprints of WTC 1 and 2 but they’re anti-forms of the buildings that once were and trigger no recollections. There is nothing familiar afoot.

 

While inhabiting this new alien space in my mind’s eye I know a previous physical reality existed there that’s been overlaid by a new self-subsuming and improved self. Recollections of walking the World Trade Center site, marveling at the brutality of the double towers and its sun’s anvil of a plaza, walking the cathedral like lobbies of the buildings, taking out of town visitors to the observation deck, staring out the vertical slit apertures of Windows on the World effecting an airplane view not a skyscraper view, generally interacting with the site up close and from afar, using the towers as distant way finders from uptown, knowing this space existed and that we inhabited it, repeatedly, yet now not physically experiencing or visually seeing anything of those tangible and forceful memories. The former twin towers and the site around them? Specters of the past.

 

This tabula rasa proffered by newly vacant ground in dense lower Manhattan provides an overpowering once in a lifetime opportunity for architecture and the city. The manifestation of the site’s reconstruction naturally reacts to this opportunity. Moreover it’s the perfect expression of a congenital NYC zeitgeist insisting that each generation obliterate the buildings of the previous one to recreate them bigger and better in their own contemporary image. NYC must be always constructing itself anew.

 

Non New Yorkers logically conclude, “New York will be a handsome city when it is finished,” because they have not yet internalized the mad logic that makes the place tick. This notion fundamentally misunderstands the obsessive and intense energy required for The City to persist. Remember, the original WTC obliterated an entire neighborhood producing a radical, re-imagined, reoccupied section of downtown NYC that fundamentally altered the skyline.

 

The force that is NYC insists that 16 suddenly empty acres of prime downtown real estate available for redevelopment be entirely re-imagined. New Yorkers are perpetual optimistic neo-Futurists in spirit and actions. In fact they were futurists before the Futurists, proto-Futurists. It’s the only way to persist in that environment, especially if you aren’t a hedge fund manager, a Russian industrialist oligarch or independently wealthy. This attitude towards the built environment helps explain how and why NYC is NYC, why 8+ million souls choose to difficultly live there. Its assurance in its primacy, importance and immediacy of itself makes it absolutely exhilarating and oftentimes infuriating.

  WTC Before & After - Previous WTC site, left. Current WTC site, right.

WTC Before & After - Previous WTC site, left. Current WTC site, right.

 

The two Arad / Walker memorials themselves perplex me, actually, they disturb me. They are not contemplative edifices. Absent is the calm solemnity of Lin’s Vietnam War Memorial or the Butzer Gardner Oklahoma City National Memorial, environments for reflection and introspection. Standing athwart the rail at the edge of the memorial precipice evokes a discomforting reaction. The plunging water over the black granite outer edge of the memorial into the black pool below and then descending into a smaller square black void centered in the pool elicits strong recollections of the terrifying falls of that terrible day.

 

Thousands of pieces of paper incongruously lilting in the air 1,200 feet over Manhattan, then drifting to the streets of lower Manhattan and Brooklyn Heights, the oppressive cloying dust (all those who walked through the debris cloud ingested these WTC particles, eating a small part of the event), plummeting, flailing, jumping human beings from above the façade impact zones, the collapse of the buildings themselves and ultimately the ragged hole left in lower Manhattan. The buildings dropping from the sky are intense and painful images from that day, the interminable acrimonious 13+ year planning and construction project are the hole’s legacy. Why compel visitors of the site to relive these memories?

 

These memorials are dark, literally and figuratively, with limited sensitivity or meaningful opportunities to memorialize the events of that day. My only conclusion is that maybe in some reading of the memorials they are in spirit poor variations on Terragni’s Danteum or a halfhearted attempt to channel Etienne-Louis Boullée?

 

From Dante,

 

So that the Universe felt love,

by which, as some believe,

the world has many times been turned to chaos.

And at that moment this ancient rock,

here and elsewhere, fell broken into pieces.

 

 And more obviously,

 

I am the way into the city of woe,

I am the way into eternal pain,

I am the way to go among the lost.

Justice caused my high architect to move,

Divine omnipotence created me,

The highest wisdom, and the primal love.

Before me there were no created things

But those that last forever—as do I.

Abandon all hope ye who enter here.

 

What I was hoping to experience,

 

To get back up to the shining world from there

My guide and I went into that hidden tunnel,

And following its path, we took no care

To rest, but climbed: he first, then I – so far,

through a round aperture I saw appear

Some of the beautiful things that Heaven bears,

Where we came forth, and once more saw the stars.

 

Lastly, what happens during the freeze of winter? Are the fountains turned off? The over-spray will ice the surroundings creating unsafe conditions compelling closure of the site. These openings without water flow must surely be seen as open mass graves. Hopefully there’s a winter plan I’m unaware of.

 

With respect to the museum itself I couldn’t compel myself to stand in line, buy a ticket, stand in line to enter and then buck the crowds for a walk-through. Additionally an anxious horror of confronting the gift shop loomed foremost in my mind. From the exterior the building form leaves me empty. It seemingly has no specific relationship to the site, the city or the 9/11 attack, a Snøhetta formalism transplanted from Scandinavia into lower Manhattan? Not sure yet. Before making a final assessment I owe it to the building and the architects to go inside.

 

Maybe next visit.

[Ed. Note: This piece was written in October 2014.]