Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Mon Sep 9 08:36:38 MDT 2002

Yesterday's NY Times magazine section has a remarkable article on the World
Trade Center (, all
the more so since it is an attack on the political, economic, engineering
and esthetic principles that made this monstrosity possible rather than a
misty-eyed homage.

This paragraph is typical:

 >>Even before they were built, though, critics derided the Buck Rogers
quality of the towers, noting that new technologies and new architectural
paradigms often bring new vulnerabilities. Ada Louise Huxtable, then the
architecture critic at The New York Times, publicly aired her doubts in
1966. ''Who's afraid of the big, bad buildings?'' she wrote. ''Everyone,
because there are so many things about gigantism that we just don't know.
The gamble of triumph or tragedy at this scale -- and ultimately it is a
gamble -- demands an extraordinary payoff. The trade-center towers could be
the start of a new skyscraper age or the biggest tombstones in the world.'' <<

Although I had been in the upper floors of the WTC many times on business,
I could never get used to it. To start with, the elevator ride was enough
to get you seasick. For reasons I never really understood, they seemed to
sway perceptibly from one side of the shaft to another. Whenever I took
out-of-town guests to the top floor, I couldn't wait to get down.

The article also focuses on the outright hostility of the designers and
Port Authority bosses to "radio row", a rabbit's warren of small shops that
were scheduled for demolition. It was exactly neighborhoods like this that
give NYC its distinct charm, as well as generating jobs and revenue. Here's
how the architect viewed things:

 >>Yamasaki started off by canvassing the grid of Radio Row streets:
Greenwich, Cortlandt, Vesey, West Broadway, Church, Liberty, Dey. He
strolled past the grand Hudson Terminal buildings, turn-of-the-century twin
towers that had themselves once been the largest office buildings in the
world. He felt little sympathy for those buildings, or for the many others
that his project would soon raze. Nostalgic radio buffs might bemoan the
loss of the legendary district, but Yamasaki was unmoved. ''It was quite a
blighted section, with radio and electronic shops in old structures,
clothing stores, bars and many other businesses that could be relocated
without much anguish,'' he later wrote. Yamasaki's verdict on Radio Row:
''There was not a single building worth saving.'' <<

Louis Proyect

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