This fall, Larry Silverstein hired Giroud Pichot, a small architectural animation firm, to create what amounts to a high-end commercial for his latest efforts. This seductive little movie has been out there for several weeks now. If you've already seen it, have another look after this review. If not, consider this the set-up. Movie to follow.
In September 2001, just nine days after 9/11, Larry Silverstein declared his intention to build 4 or 5 buildings of 50-60 stories on the World Trade Center site. Ever since practically the whole world rejected Silverstein's plan in July 2002, he and the rebuilding authorities have been desperate.
Desperate for enough of the right people to believe that
they — Silverstein and the authorities — were taking the next World Trade Center in a new and better direction. And desperate for these same people to believe this Fiction of the New fervently enough to make them forget the original.
Using a calculated rhetoric of images and words, Silverstein and the authorities have continued to adorn their Emperor with more and more and more elaborate new clothes, to the point that many people — far too many — are not able to recognize that the Emperor is every bit as naked as before.
Indeed, most of New York's politicians and virtually all of the national news media — starting with The New York Times — have long since climbed up on the Emperor’s float and, even now, are waving to the crowd from on high. Whether out of genuine enthusiasm or self-deludedly hopeful exhaustion, much of the crowd is waving right back.
It's been quite a parade.
The organizing idea for this campaign has been a
little something called "the Libeskind vision." Now,
Larry Silverstein has coopted three more architects — Norman Foster, Richard Rogers, and Fumihiko Maki —
to help sell this vision.
But this, unveiled in September 2006...
...is the same as this, unveiled in July 2002, more than two months before Daniel Libeskind was even on the scene.
Karl Marx famously said something to the effect that "history repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce." The problem with farce is that the less obvious it is — the more it seems to resemble straight-up Shakespearean comedy — the longer it takes the masses to realize that there's something insidious going on.
And who wants to think hard thoughts, anyway, when
they could be clapping along to a good song and dance at the Emperor's parade?
If you've ever read Aldous Huxley, you know that this was the crux of his warning: For once society starts believing the burlesque, it risks laughing itself all the way over the precipice and down, down, down into the Brave New World below. And once that happens, it's all over.
Think I'm kidding? Watch this movie. It's a cautionary reminder of the lengths to which desperation will go — especially when it's armed with a big checkbook.
Enjoy it if you must. Replay it a few times. Just don't
be seduced by the spectacle: The prim, slim, elongated, slightly chilly, high-heels femininity of the towers in this animation is an utter fantasy.
Absent the George Gershwin and Kander & Ebb soundtrack — deployed here to render the proposed plan as a kind of sunny, Jazz Age confection — the hyper-congested, light-starved, streets-and-sidewalks reality produced by the bulky corporate monoliths that would actually get built under this plan would not be the charm this movie promises. It would be a curse.
There have been plenty of machinations at ground zero
these five years.
This movie is the the most dangerous piece of