December 14, 2011

Some Thoughts on the MVRDV "9/11 Exploding World Trade Center" Building

I have to say, I’m a lot less concerned about MVRDV’s design than I am about the hysteria it’s generating. If there’s really something to worry about here, it’s the destruction of the opportunity for a more nuanced discussion given all the cultural, political, perceptual and aesthetic alarms going off. If the take-aways below simply serve as the stimulus for some deeper looking and thinking, I would say we’ve done justice to imagery crying out for a teaching moment….

1. Cultural Narcissism

The design firm is Dutch, the project was proposed for South Korea. But it’s still all about us, isn’t it?

2. Plain as Day

If something of a technical point, perhaps the most troubling thing here is the way in which media and the public are taking 2-D artistic renderings at face-value without any attempt to extrapolate to a more varied and complex reading of this design given three dimensions and various points of orientation, actual scale, weather and light, etc. Perhaps a larger message here is how impoverished we are when it comes to visual literacy and a more sophisticated way of relating to contemporary architecture.

3. The Horror

Even if 9/11, versus the namesake “cloud,” does have some validity, is there no room for debate as to the symbolic meaning and significance of such a reference? And then, who is to say that this association would have staying power beyond these loaded, “politically correct” first impressions?

4. What (WAPO architecture critic Philip) Kennicott said.

5. Parc 51 All Over Again

Did someone say “Ground Zero Mosque”? (1, 2)

6. Don’t think of an elephant.

I wouldn’t be doing justice without offering up some choice examples of the media firing up an association with 9/11, and then attempting to burn it into the mind’s eye.

National Post MVRDV 9 11 juxtaposition

(via The National Post)


(via ABC News)



Telegraph MVRDV


MVRDV 9 11 Inhabitat

(…and, representing the design blogs, Inhabitat. By the way, in the poll in their post asking readers if the design reminds them of the 9/11 attack on the WTC, the 1200 responses are running 2-1 in favor of “no” — and that’s with this juxtaposition right above it.)

(renderings: MVRDV)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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