|photo Todd Heisler//NY Times|
Flawed 1 World Trade Center Is a Cautionary Tale - NYTimes.com
by Michael Kimmelman
The observatory, with the wraparound, nosebleed views, is not finished. Almost half the office space isn’t leased yet. But a baker’s dozen years after Sept. 11, 1 World Trade Center is up and running.
“It’s not so bad,” offered an architect who has a window facing the building.
Alas, it is.
Like the corporate campus and plaza it shares, 1 World Tradespeaks volumes about political opportunism, outmoded thinking and upside-down urban priorities. It’s what happens when a commercial developer is pretty much handed the keys to the castle. Tourists will soon flock to the top of the building, and tenants will fill it up. But a skyscraper doesn’t just occupy its own plot of land. Even a tower with an outsize claim on the civic soul needs to be more than tall and shiny.
I find myself picturing General MacArthur in aviator sunglasses when I see the building. Its mirrored exterior is opaque, shellacked, monomaniacal. An abbreviated obelisk, the building rises to 104 stories atop a square, 20-story, concrete bunker, only partly disguised behind butterflylike louvered glass panels. The tower’s thick, chamfered corners produce octagonal floors and a facade of steep, interlocked triangles. From north, south, east and west, the building looks the same.
Many New Yorkers hated the twin towers, but their sculptured corners captured sunlight at dawn and dusk, creating immaterial ribbons of orange and silver that floated up toward the ether. The towers changed, depending on where you stood, at what hour. The space between them shifted, too; it opened or closed as you moved around the city.
One World Trade is symmetrical to a fault, stunted at its peak, its heavy corners the opposite of immaterial. There’s no mystery, no unraveling of light, no metamorphosis over time, nothing to hold your gaze. By comparison, Britain’s tallest tower, the 95-story Shard in London, by Renzo Piano, dissolves and shimmers as day passes into night. Screens cluster at the top to make a sharp point, completing the glacial spire. Immense, overlapping planes of extra-white glass give the building a prismatic, luminous transparency.
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