NYC's most disliked building?

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Tue Sep 18 07:08:07 MDT 2001

New York's most disliked building?
The World Trade Center represented the essence of American financial power,
but critics hated the towers and the public never embraced them.

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By Eric Boehlert (

Sept. 17, 2001 | They jeered when it went up. They cried when it crashed

During its nearly 30-year residence at the southern tip of Manhattan, the
World Trade Center's twin towers lived an unusual, contradictory city life.

Built, according to its chief architect Minoru Yamasaki, "as a living
symbol of man's dedication to world peace," the World Trade Center was
destroyed by terrorists in a devastating act of war.

The towers were acknowledged as a wonder of modern engineering, yet were
riddled with quirks, like the way pencils rolled off desktops on the top
floors when the wind began to gust. Real estate developers in the '60s and
'70s derided the World Trade Center as government-sponsored folly. Yet this
past summer the twin towers morphed into the most valuable piece of
privately run real estate in New York.

And while the twin towers were embraced worldwide as the symbol of New
York's grandeur and prowess, locals, not to mention merciless critics, were
cool to the sprawling complex, if not outright contemptuous of the "dreary"
creation. Instead, they more often pointed to the Empire State and Chrysler
buildings as structures that best echoed the city's aspirations.

>From the time the two towers opened for business in 1972, New Yorkers were
fascinated by their sheer size and oddity. Daredevils parachuted off the
roofs, scaled up windows and walked tightropes between the towers. Movie
directors sent mechanical apes to the side ("King Kong"), and staged
extravagant dance numbers in the plaza ("The Wiz"). Everyone wanted to
touch the new towers, to prod them, to see if the glistening giants had a
heart or a soul. The towers though, never seemed to look down, to notice
the commotion below.

"The towers kept you at a distance. They said you are divided from me. It
was a weird message," says Eric Darton, author of "Divided We Stand: A
Biography of New York City's World Trade Center." "They never cohered as a
symbolic value like the Statue of Liberty or the Brooklyn Bridge."

Few want to contemplate what the towers' rubble may symbolize today.
Instead, the question is how the buildings will be remembered.

"The thing we're going to miss the most is the skyline," says Angus Kress
Gillespie, professor of American studies at Rutgers and author of "Twin
Towers: The Life of New York City's World Trade Center." "I don't want to
minimize the loss of life or the financial loss. But a year from now what
we'll miss is the beautiful outline in the sky."

"Even though New Yorkers didn't necessarily love the buildings, they will
be remembered with such pain," says Carol Willis, founding director of New
York's Skyscraper Museum. "They were always there [looking south to] the
bottom of Fifth Avenue. Now you keep looking at this fractured skyline and
there's this constant reminder they aren't there anymore."

full article:

Louis Proyect
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