I finally went down to the World Trade Center, first trip since 2002 first anniversary — what a bummer…

12 Jan

First: St. Nicholas isn’t done yet. How long does it take to build the above small church? They haven’t even put a cross on the dome yet.

I have a special emotional investment in this church, beyond the fact that it was the first Greek church in New York, or that in the beginning it was shared by the Syrian and Lebanese and Palestinian Greek Orthodox communities from “Little Syria”, which was levelled to build the WTC, or because Tsar Nicholas II sent the church a relic of St. Nicholas that was found in the rubble after the events of 2001. It’s also because for my father’s funeral in 2005 we asked people to make a donation to the St. Nicholas Reconstruction Fund instead of flowers, so I’m proud that a lot of friends and family have had a part in the rebuilding, but that’s also why I want it finished already! We’ve paid for it! I need to get in there and light a candle soon or I’ll sue the Port Authority.

The old church of St. Nicholas withe the old towers behind it. The block on which the church sat was torn down, but it’s policy to never sell an Orthodox church, ever, which is why there are so many pretty unattended and empty Greek churches in the city (St. George in the Barrio or Hagioi Anargyroi in Washington Heights) because the Greeks have left the neighborhood, but the churches stay functioning churches, even with almost no congregation. So the Archdiocese refused to sell the old St. Nicholas when the towers were built so it sat in the middle of a parking lot, which was the only purpose the block was good for, for more than 30 years.

Then, the Liberty or Freedom Tower or whatever it’s called is the kind of mediocre architecture New York seems to get saddled with more than any other great city. The old towers, which I know nobody ever really liked (though I thought it was seriously inopportune and nasty to talk about how unattractive they were right after their destruction) were at least impressive in their bulk, which wasn’t in the middle of the city, but, to surprising visual effect, at the edge of the city. They seemed to be two harbor piers that all of Manhattan island was tethered to. It was wonderful.

Of all the proposed designs for the new towers, the ones I liked most when the competition was announced were the designs of English architect Norman Foster. They had the bulk of the old towers and were visually really interesting, with weirdly angled surfaces that would have probably reflected light in complex ways. (See models below)

But the “9/11 families”, aflame with borough sentimentality and sense of aesthetics, were upset with the Foster design, because it looked too much like a crumpled, broken or collapsing building to them. So the design went back to the committee, which chose Daniel Liebeskind‘s boring design, which the committee then modified again; then, after deciding to make a tower of lower height, the committee compensated with a spire which ridiculously makes the whole structure add up to 1,776 feet. Think “freedom fries”.

So, since as the French say: “A camel is a tiger drawn up by a committee” we got stuck — “…Just Like That” — with this banal piece of Dubai-liki (below) and that was the end of any real architectural aspirations for downtown Manhattan. The least common denominator always wins.

One funny thing though, the spire on the top of the building kinna looks like a minaret.

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comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

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