clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

WTC plan is "up in the air"

To the rest of the world, it must seem odd that as America busies itself with war it also takes time to build grand monuments to those who have fallen.

But then such is the native optimism of the United States.

In the American mind there is no doubt that the nation will win the war against terrorism, win any war with Iraq, or win any and all other wars..

And the proof of that attitude is the fact the country is building a glorious tribute at the World Trade Center, a sight — and site — much grander than the one that stood there before.

Daniel Libeskind, an architect who came to America at age 13 with his parents — two Holocaust survivors — came up with the winning design. And he has poured his own history of suffering and survival into the work.

But at age 56, he might not live to see it completed. Rumor has it, in fact, that the monument — complete with five office buildings — may never be finished. The economy and New York City's current 14 million square feet of available office space could delay things for decades. So could the squabbling over future additions.

What will be completed, for sure, is Libeskind's "bath tub," a hallowed, sunken shrine where the foundations of the original World Trade Center once stood. Everything else — the museum, the spire that will make it the tallest structure in the world, the angular high-rise buildings — is "up in the air."

And, in the end, perhaps that is fitting, since so much in the country seems "up in the air" at the moment.

As a design, Libeskind's conception is striking and angular. It has a powerful, masculine feel and it fills the city's "gap tooth" skyline like a good piece of bridge work. It is an ingenious idea.

Yet, it is almost as if too much thinking has gone into it. The way the light will glance off the walls at just the right angle each Sept. 11, the obvious homage to Jerusalem's Wailing Wall, the symbolism of a building rising a patriotic 1,776 feet, makes the site wonderfully poetic and intellectual.

One simply hopes poetic will do the job..

And the job will be this: To give mourners a hallowed place to mourn, give dreamers a place to dream and to embody the wrenching sadness and resilience of a people.

But then asking any building — even Libeskind's marvel — to capture such things may be asking too much.

Such sentiments can truly be immortalized only in the way Americans respond — in the choices they make and the way they live their lives from this point on.

Everything else is just window dressing.