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« Doing It For a Living | Main | Free Reads -- Amy Sohn on Hasbians »

February 06, 2003

Free Reads -- Felix on Muschamp

Friedrich --

The alert Felix Salmon has caught the NYTimes' ludicrous (scandalous? soi-disant? evil?) architecture critic Herbert Muschamp stepping on his own toes. It's readable here. Hey, maybe Felix is ready to join Philip Murphy, Paul Mansour and me in our Anti-Herbert-Muschamp Webring.

Or maybe not. Felix has put up his own posting about the WTC finalists here. He likes the THINK proposal a lot. Wrong wrong wrong! But nicely done.



posted by Michael at February 6, 2003


Well, I stopped reading Philip Murphy, I'm afraid, when I got to the bit in the second paragraph of his posting saying that the Think "plan is notable for its not having any commercial space at all." In fact, with 8,558,000 sq ft of office space, it has more than Libeskind's 7,630,000 sq ft.

Anybody who's interested in why I like the Think proposal can just follow your link to my piece, so I shan't rehearse the reasons here. But as for Muschamp, I have to say that although my cheap shot was more than justified, I can see where he's coming from. He's got a bully pulpit, and he's decided to use it. He prefers the expensive Think design to the cheap Libeskind design -- as do I. And he's changed his mind, as, indeed, have I. So although I do find him insufferably pompous and long-winded at times, I'm afraid I must decline your invitation to join your webring.

Posted by: Felix on February 6, 2003 8:20 PM

Ah, well. We'll keep a seat free for you at the table for when you come to your senses.

Philip! Time to defend yourself, man!

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on February 7, 2003 12:19 AM

I think replacing the Trade Center with vaguely cultural buildings would be a disaster.

Lower Manhattan is to capitalism what the Vatican is Catholicism. The people who work at Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan are not going to linger downtown at cultural events. They want trading floors not art galleries.

Besides, can't we learn from the past for once. Plopping down hugely expensive and conspicuously "designed" buildings and calling them a cultural center is the kiss of death to any dynamic, authentic culture. It becomes a museum of culture like the Kennedy Center or Lincoln Center.

Lower Manhattan is a generator of culture. The Muschamps of the world dismiss it because it is the culture of money and commerce.

When I imagine the old Twin Towers I hear thumping disco from WKTU. I see people from Long Island and Jersey having their weeding pictures taken in front of it. I can smell the cigarettes and the sweat from the gold pit at the COMEX.

Look at the people murdered on 9/11. They were 30 year olds from the boroughs who went to Met games and Billy Joel concerts. How come none of designs to memorialize them included a sports arena to replace Madison Square Garden or Shea Stadium? Because these black-clad elitists can't even concieve of going to see fistfight between the Rangers and Flyers.

Lower Manhattan is about striving, middle-class dreams, competition, playing the game and winning. To turn it into some alien haute culture wasteland would be the kiss of death and a profound dishonor.

Posted by: Philip Murphy on February 7, 2003 10:34 AM

As usual, regarding architecture, Murphy is on target. The World Trade Center itself was a failure at being a world trade center, and no doubt Think's "World Cultural Center" will be a failure as a world cultural center. Just like any local joint that is actually named "Community Center" is never a communtiy center. More importantly, the implication is clear that America's pennance for bringing 9/11 upon itself is to learn more about world culture. Muschamp's hand picked designers in his New York Times funded "reimagining" of lower Manhattan worked off this theme too. That alone is reason to reject Think's plan.

Posted by: Paul Mansour on February 7, 2003 12:33 PM

I hate both of the "finalists" but I really seriously HATE the Think design. It looks unfinished. It feels creepy.

I think how the final choice looks from ground level is more important though. We non-NYers tend to think in terms of how the skyline will look, but NYers have to live with it. If people aren't comfortable living, working, shopping and just going there to hang out then it will still be little more than a giant hole in downtown Manhattan.

Posted by: Lynn S on February 7, 2003 12:33 PM

Philip --

You may or may not be right that the people who work at Goldman and Morgan aren't going to linger downtown for cultural events. But one of the reasons is that the people who work at JP Morgan are in midtown. As are the people who work for UBS, Bear Stearns, Morgan Stanley, Lehman Bros, etc etc. Lower Manhattan simply isn't the center of global capitalism any more: midtown is. Goldman's downtown still, Merrill is in the World Financial Center, and Salomon Smith Barney is a little bit further north in Tribeca. The NYSE's still on Wall and Broad, of course, and there are couple of baby exchanges downtown too, but international finance is not going to singlehandedly revitalise lower Manhattan in the way that the Bloomberg plan for the are envisages. The area is a wasteland NOW, Philip, and it's going to stay that way unless and until someone comes along with a vision to transform it. For all your carping from the sidelines, that's what Think, along with the city of New York and the LMDC, have come up with.

Posted by: Felix on February 7, 2003 5:19 PM

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