Viñoly Spanks Freedom Tower
January 23, 2007
As the architect Rafael Viñoly sees it, the Freedom Tower is utterly superfluous. This was the concluding thought of his public presentation on January 18, this year's first Third Thursday lecture sponsored by the Downtown Alliance.
Rounding out his half-stoic, half-bitter account of the past five years' WTC design proceedings, he plugged the new book, Think New York: A Ground Zero Diary, which chronicles these affairs from the point of view of the novel design team with which he collaborated.
He also chucked a few zingers in the direction of the architect David Childs and former Governor Pataki. Left relatively unscathed was the developer Larry Silverstein, owner of the acclaimed new building (7 World Trade Center) in which the event was held.
Viñoly characterized Freedom Tower--designed by Childs and SOM--as economically inefficient and aesthetically mediocre, especially in relation to the adjacent, arguably superior office towers now being designed by Norman Foster, Richard Rogers and Fumihiko Maki (towers 2, 3, and 4 on the WTC site). The crowd of around 1000 appeared amused and perhaps stirred by Viñoly's flippant, imaginative renderings of the site depicting the Freedom Tower at half-height and then missing altogether. "You don't lose much," he quipped. Viñoly reasons that the Freedom Tower's 2.6M square feet of office space could be redistributed among other towers, and observes that its chief architectural features are its cheesy name and its height as measured in feet, which is the same number used to describe how many years passed between Jesus's birth and the American Revolution.
Finally, Viñoly compared the "comedy of errors" of designing and redesigning the Freedom Tower to the US invasion of Iraq, in the sense that the situation may be too flawed to fix. "You can't save face--because you made a blundering mistake," he said. On the other hand, the architect praised the exhilarating "injection of enthusiasm" about architecture and the design of public space during the early stages of planning. Recalling the site masterplan he co-generated as part of the THINK team, runner-up to Daniel Libeskind's plan in 2003, Viñoly said he still believes that the site should highlight cultural, arts and memorial facilities, while accommodating the required office space at the sidelines.