Ground Zero Sum


Reconstruction at Ground Zero has been a delirium of quantification from the start. The prime number, of course, is the number of victims. But the human tragedy was rapidly overshadowed by a real estate soap opera: yes, 3,000 people may have died, but 10 million square feet of rentable space were destroyed! This quick reversion to business as usual was appalling, and I joined those opposed to any rebuilding on the site (among others, many families of the victims and, most improbably, Rudy Giuliani). There were plenty of other places in the city for office space, and none of the arguments I heard had adequately reckoned with the event’s aura. Here was an opportunity to express democratic values, to create a great place of free assembly rather than a real estate deal. This opinion has been reinforced as the first two replacement skyscrapers near completion, joining a third already built just north of the site and another across from it; a fifth is rising, the memorial is complete, and the PATH transit hub is emerging from the ground. In use and effect, the complex is a prime specimen of capitalist realism and its preferred forms of architecture and behavior. To judge these monolithic structures formally, the ratio of invention to bulk is an obvious criterion. Once you accept the minimalist premise, critique treads a narrow line. The three buildings now or nearly done are clad in identically proportioned mirror glazing (I omit the Goldman Sachs tower for the slight variation in its curtain wall).

more from Michael Sorkin at The Nation here.