May 14, 2006

"The energy and karma is being boomeranged back on these people."

Says Sally Regenhard, an opponent of the design for the World Trade Center memorial. The project is in disarray:
The current rethinking has been prompted by a report leaked May 5 estimating the project's cost at $1 billion. But criticism of the design had mounted on such grounds as safety, symbolism and the order in which victims' names would be listed in underground galleries. Last week, representatives of the city, state and private agencies in charge of rebuilding at ground zero returned to the drawing board, looking at alterations that would cut the memorial's estimated cost in half....

Last year, [Michael] Arad's design underwent another change, reducing the number of ramps descending into each void from four to two — one entrance and one exit — after consultants said visitors would find his design too confusing. Arad, who is contractually prohibited from discussing the process, is said to have been unhappy with the decision.

What the present crisis over cost means for the design is "very unclear," said Frederic Bell, executive director of the New York chapter of the American Institute of Architects. But Bell said he has been troubled by suggestions that the underground portion of the memorial could be eliminated. That change, Bell said, would be "the last straw" for Arad's original design.
Does it not seem wrong to spend so much money on a memorial? Isn't simplicity, not extravagance, what is called for? But the design is simple. Surely, it's not ornate. It's expensive because of the scheme of moving people underground:
"That's what Michael's scheme is about. It is about going down and separating from the street life and hurly-burly," [Frederic Bell, executive director of the New York chapter of the American Institute of Architects] said. "The lack of descent would be the irreconcilable change that would finally cause the scheme to lose its meaning."
Shouldn't they have thought this through long ago? Or would any design have embroiled us in boomeranging energy and karma like this?

22 comments:

Dave said...

Penn & Teller did one of their recent Bullshit shows about this. It was quite good, and they placed all the blame squarely at George Pataki's feet, which seems about right to me.

Ann Althouse said...

Ah, thanks. I'll check it out.

Jacques Cuze said...

While five hundred million or one billion seems like an enormous amount, I would think it is all relative.

Bush's 2004 inaugural came in at $40M, we are currently burning $10 billion EACH WEEK in Iraq, and the national debt increases by just about $2 billion each day since September, 2005.

$500M would only cover 12 such inaugurals, about 9 hours in Iraq, and would only add 6 hours to the national debt.

Really doesn't seem so bad now, does it?

Jacques Cuze said...

It really only adds about $2 to the birth tax, which otherwise stands at about $36,000 per child.

I know that my children love America and want to commemorate 9/11, the day that changed everything.

SippicanCottage said...

No, no, monkeyman! Karl Rove's invisible mind rays must be involved in this. Your financial non-sequiturs are indeed interesting, but not dispositive. And you didn't even tell us how many whoopie cushion the poor Fred Durst wannabe would have to sell to make that kind of money. Don't hold back, tell us everything you know!

Seven Machos said...

This could be an urban legend, but it is my understanding that the Vietnam War Memorial was designed by a woman who submitted the idea via an open contest. If true, this is interesting, because the Vietnam War Memorial really strikes a cord with the American people. (On the Mall, you'll notice that's where everyone is.) It's very simple; it's visceral; it bestows dignity and importance on a group of people who perhaps did not have dignity and importance for a few decades.

They should scrap this WTC Memorial because it is a mess and hold a totally open, totally new contest, and harness the creative power of the American people. I predict this process would come up with something amazing and would be a lot less likely to stir controversy.

Jacques Cuze said...

This could be an urban legend, but it is my understanding that the Vietnam War Memorial was designed by a woman who submitted the idea via an open contest. If true, this is interesting, because the Vietnam War Memorial really strikes a cord with the American people. (On the Mall, you'll notice that's where everyone is.) It's very simple; it's visceral; it bestows dignity and importance on a group of people who perhaps did not have dignity and importance for a few decades.


A veteran assailed the design as the "black gash of shame." Other detractors criticized it as a "black, flagless pit," while others attacked it as being "unheroic," "death-oriented," and "intentionally not meaningful."

Wow macho-man, you are proof how poor our education system is.

Palladian said...

"If true, this is interesting, because the Vietnam War Memorial really strikes a cord with the American people. (On the Mall, you'll notice that's where everyone is.) It's very simple; it's visceral.."

The Vietnam War Memorial, or indeed any other memorial, doesn't present the complex engineering challenges that any kind of memorial on the WTC site presents. I have a friend who is an architect working on an aspect of the WTC site so I hear about these problems all the time. What people seem to forget is that the WTC site is a massive, massive hole, and is not permanently stable in its current condition. If the sunken pits are to be retained as they are in the current memorial, a hugely expensive engineering project has to be completed to permanently stabilize the site, and this adds a tremendous amount to the cost of the project that has nothing to do with the specifics of the memorial. But even if it was decided that there would be no underground memorial at all, and the site would just be shored up with concrete and filled in, it would still cost about 300 million dollars to do just that, before any structure at all could be built on the site. And adding to the complexity of the structural aspects of the project are the numerous subway and PATH lines that run through and adjacent to the site.

I wish the media would do a better job of trying to explain what an unprecedented set of challenges building anything on this site presents, so that people better understand why what seems like an outrageous amount of money is at least partially justified by the engineering demands of building on top of a massive, unstable hole.

Palladian said...

Do you have anything but bile to add to any conversation, quxxo? I honestly wish Ann could do something to keep you from ruining her website with your stupid, nasty garbage. I know that responding to you probably strokes your impotent narcissism, but I can't help it. Stop fucking up every discussion. Go away, no one likes you. Or are you trying to drive away those of us who actually want to have a conversation at the adult table?

Palladian said...

Seven Machos: The designer of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was sculptor Maya Lin, who indeed was a 21 year old architecture student when she submitted the chosen design to an open contest. She was not even mentioned at the dedication ceremony for the memorial, and maintained a rather low profile regarding the project so many people don't know who designed the memorial. Whether her low profile with regards to the project had anything to do with the fact that she was an Asian woman, as some suggest, is open to interpretation.

Dave said...

Palladian--I don't doubt that the engineering problems are complex, however, it is not the responsibility of the press to report accurately--if it were, after all, Dan Rather et al would be out of a job.

It is, however, the responsibility of politicians (specficially, George Pataki) to force the constituent agencies to work together to come up with a plan and execute it.

That it has been going on five and a half years now since the towers were destroyed hardly lends credence to the idea that costs and complexity are the sole reason nothing has happened to the site.

Those are incidental concerns; the principal ones are assorted politico's ineptitude and/or apathy.

Seven Machos said...

Palladian -- That's all very interesting. Thanks.

My initial response is: why does it have to be in a big hole? The memorial doesn't have to be part of the reconstruction. It can be; maybe people feel strongly that it should be.

SippicanCottage said...

The purpose of any memorial is to commemorate the contributions or sacrifice of the honorees. It can give a sense of historical importance, but ultimately, it's up to the public whether to find any meaning in it.

I suspect the Vietnam War Memorial triumphed in spite of its design, not because of it. People are reacting to the names of the dead arrayed in one place as much as anything to do with the form of display. Stone tablets with names inscribed on them for war dead are nothing new. Kooky memorial designs are about the designer, not the honorees. Funerals are not places to talk about yourself.

The problem with the WTC memorial is that too many people are trying to use the dead people as political furniture to grind their crabby little political axes.

They should have built those two ugly towers exactly as they were before, and atop each one, put a plaque (right next to the AA missiles)with the names of the murdered and an inscription informing our enemies that we all despise them, and love our fellow americans, and will defend our way of life, and our people, to the ends of the earth.

We're not zebras at the watering hole watching the lions eat another zebra and muttering: What do I care? It's not me.

Our fellow citizens lives should be no less meaningful because they are over. We can defend their lives, even after others have ended them, by defending the society they were part of.

Or we can enter the phone book into evidence, your honor, about how many melon balls got eaten at George Bush's inaugural.

Tough choice.

Mark said...

Why don't they just put a plaque somewhere on the grounds once the new buildings are built, and be done with it. The whole event was highly negative and not a moment of great national achievement that bears immortalization.

It seems like our society has gotten into this mode where we build these big monuments to suffering (e.g. the Holocaust Memorial in Washington - I still don't understand why there is a Holocaust memorial in this country since we had nothing to do with it one way or the other) instead of monuments to greatness.

And let's get past this trend of having to put the name of every victim on a plaque, and then bicker over the order of names, and who was included or excluded, etc.

I wouldn't give our enemies the satisfaction of making a big memorial out of their successful attack. A simple plaque noting that the tragedy occured would be enough.

Jacques Cuze said...

Henry Ford, Prescott Bush, IBM, Jewish Immigration Policy, ...

And I thank g-d for this country for putting an end to it.

Ruth Anne Adams said...

When Sippican says: "They should have built those two ugly towers exactly as they were before...", I agree except for one thing.

We should build those two ugly towers a few floors taller than before. Just because we can.

downtownlad said...

New York doesn't need a memorial. Memorials are for D.C. They should just put up a simple plaque commemerating the victims. A real memorial would involve bringing life back to lower Manhattan by building office buildings, retail, residential, and cultural sites.

Or just put a park there.

P. Froward said...

Number 6, you're right, we did put an end to the Holocaust... at great expense, with no very clear rationale in terms of the national interest. "America First", remember?

As SippicanCottage says,

"We're not zebras at the watering hole watching the lions eat another zebra and muttering: 'What do I care? It's not me.'"

Relax, Number 6. Don't get all worked up. Nobody's suggesting that his "we" includes you.


Anyhow, I'm with downtownlad: A plaque would be fine. Make it a nice big plaque, if you like: Something like the 54th Massachusetts Memorial, but smaller, would be nice (sorry to upset you Number 6 — there goes another war that didn't meet your high standards!).

The Vietnam Memorial is fine, and worked out better than a lot of people expected, but the Vietnam war was a war; 9/11 was a terrorist attack. There's a difference in scale. A plaque is sufficient.

Dave said...

New York Magazine's front page article for this week's edition is devoted to this very issue.

Available here if anyone is interested.

tjl said...

Maya Lin's Vietnam memorial was not conceived until a generation after the war it so successfully commemorates. The passing of time is necessary for the significance of great historic events to become fully clear.

9/11 is such an event. Five years is too soon to attempt to crystallize it in a tangible monument. No wonder the proposals made so far have all failed to satisfy.

Anthony said...

I was going to post something important, but Mark above said just about everything I was thinking.

Still, I will interject my favorite design concept for a new WTC:

http://www.acagle.net/images/newwtc.jpg

David said...

The reason the costs on the WTC went up was due to a difference of vision.

The memorial was to be dedicated to those who lost their lives at the hands of Islamic fundamentalists. It was in the same spirit as the Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

It was not to be an apology, dhimmitude style, to the world for the alleged sins committed by Americans on themselves or others. The more time passed the higher the cost went up as self-flagellating appologists thought up more ways to say America had it coming.

Innocent Americans died in a dastardly attack on American soil. Their sacrifice must not be forgotten but memorialized as a testament to the cost of freedom and the perfidy of those who would take it away from freedom loving people.