The power of nightmares – to shape architecture

Freedom Tower designs by David Child - from the NYT

Via greg.org, Nicolai Ourousoff on the compromised, redesigned “Freedom Tower” in the New York Times (reg. reqd.)

“…if this is a potentially fascinating work of architecture, it is, sadly, fascinating in the way that Albert Speer’s architectural nightmares were fascinating: as expressions of the values of a particular time and era. The Freedom Tower embodies, in its way, a world shaped by fear.”

The original design, with it’s open-air structural crown dissolving into the sky was a fairly poetic commemoration of what happened in NYC on the 11th of September. As poetic and hopeful as commercial architecture tends to get, anyway.

It reminded me (and others) of Jean Nouvel’s unbuilt “Tour sans fin” – itself a product of a different, hubristic hopeful time.

Jean Nouvel's unbuilt Tour Sans Fin, La Defense, Paris

Jonathan Glancey on Nouvel’s Tower in pre-war-on-nouns May 2001:

“we could learn much from Nouvel’s unbuilt project: how to build heavenwards without being lumpen or incurring the wrath of God. “

Nouvel himself, happily, seems to still be preserving the spirit of those times. Dina Mehta writes of his self-curated show of work: “The Louisiana Manifesto” at Worldchanging – from which this quote:

“Instead of the archaic architectural goal of domination, of making a permanent mark, today we should prefer to seek the pleasure of living somewhere.

Let us remember that architecture can also be an instrument of oppression, a tool for conditioning behaviour.

Let us never permit anyone to censure this pursuit of pleasure, especially in the domain of the familiar and intimate that is so necessary to our wellbeing.

Let us identify ourselves.”

This new “Freedom Tower” as Ourousoff points out, does not seem to identify the vibrant resilience of New Yorkers and NYC itself, as much as the psychopathologies of its political classes.

P.s.: See also Deyan Sudjic’s “The Edifice Complex”

0 comments
  1. Jeremy said:

    (no real great insight here) Was it originally gonna be called the French Tower, and then they remembered the ‘fries’ debacle?

    I’ll get my coat🙂

    Memorial beats Tower.

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