The saga continues. Of the latest architect, Santiago Calatrava, Nicolai Ouroussoff complains at The New York Times :

Mr. Calatrava remains unable to overcome the project’s fatal flaw: the striking incongruity between the extravagance of the architecture and the limited purpose it serves. The result is a monument to the creative ego that celebrates Mr. Calatrava’s engineering prowess but little else. And it reinforces the likelihood that one day, decades from now, when the site is finally completed, it will stand as a testament to our inability to put self-interests aside in the face of one of America’s greatest tragedies.

Why have we fallen so afoul of what seems like a basic, even primal aim — erecting a monumental strucuture commensurate with the scale and force of the tragedy it remembers?
Mr. Calatrava’s design also embodies a deeper, more troubling history: the toxic climate of those first years after the Sept. 11 attacks. While the city grieved, politicians were vowing to rebuild as fast as possible, as if that would somehow accelerate the healing process. Practical considerations were set aside. Jingoism ruled. Egotism dominated over softer, gentler voices.

Under such conditions it should surprise no one that what once promised to be one of ground zero’s most triumphant architectural achievements is hollow at its core.


A troublingly shallow history, this. As if waiting fewer than nine years to raise a monument would accomplish nothing more than faster healing. As if a mere monument is less practical than a twirling mixed-use spire of glass and steel and corporate offices and shops and visitor’s centers. As if jingoism was more fatal to the enterprise than contemplative-poolism!

Articles by James Poulos

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