"Sixteen Acres: Architecture and the Outrageous Struggle for the Future of Ground Zero" by Philip Nobel
On September 11, 2001, more than 3,000 Americans and foreign nationals were killed when two planes separately flew into two of the tallest buildings in the world in a coordinated terrorist attack on American soil. The collapse of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center became the defining visual metaphor for the deadly assault.
"Sixteen Acres" is an unusually erudite reflection on how the sixteen acres of lower Manhattan where the World Trade Center was located became a battle ground among politicians, developers, architects, survivors, and community activists, among others, as to what use of the space would best serve as a memorial and tribute to the dead of September 11th, not to mention -- in case you are cynical -- bring in revenue and businesses to the developers and the city.
An architectural critic for the New York Times and Architectural Digest, Noble offers a scintillating perspective on the limits of architecture to reflect political and emotional goals, while carefully tracking the often fascinating details of how the final choices were made on what kind of building and memorial would rise from the vast crater created by the 9/11 attack. In the end, like all politics, the final decisions for the site were born of political and business compromise, with the survivors of 9/11 having, perhaps, the least input of all.
The real power behind the decision was Al D'Amato protege, NY Governor George Pataki. Whatever formal processes had been set in place to choose a fitting architectural replacement for the Twin Towers, in the end, it was the Governor of New York who chose a spire-shaped building rising to 1,776 feet and changed its name to, what else, the "Freedom Tower."
The designer of the building, Daniel Libeskind, in true political fashion campaigned, along with his wife, for the coveted commission. He even accepted a star on the Yiddish Theater Walk of Fame (Second Avenue at Tenth Street), standing between Ed "GOP Lite" Koch and Fyvush Finkel, a star of the once thriving Yiddish acting companies. Of course, Libeskind was an architect and not an actor, and somehow -- as he was honored (for what we don't know) -- he managed to connect remembering the 3,000 who perished at ground zero with the survival of Yiddish.
Yes, dear BuzzFlash readers, only in the Big Apple. Maybe Libeskind should give up architecture and run for Mayor of New York.
"Architecture is the art of compromise," Libeskind had proclaimed when he presented his plan for Ground Zero to the city.
Anyone for a knish?