Architecture Takes Center Stage

Regardless of what you think of the schemes presented on December 18—whether you find them glorious or ominous, whether any of the ideas make their way into the final plan or are used to distract—last week’s unveiling of new plans for the World Trade Center site at the Winter Garden was a remarkable event. Architecture took center stage in an unprecedented way. Some of its greatest minds presented their craft to the world.

We don’t yet know the political ramifications, how these plans will be used or abused, heeded or ignored. Will it all be an empty exercise, a mere sideshow?

We do know that architecture as a profession was placed in a unique position by the events of September 11. Once the political dust settles—and perhaps much sooner than that—designers will be charged with giving form to memory, conflict, and compromise. Fortunately we’re still somewhere close to the beginning of the process.

And for perhaps the first time in our history, the public is hungry for architecture. At the Winter Garden, site of the “Plans in Progress” exhibition now underway, Americans who’ve never peaked inside a design magazine are trying to crack the code, studying the plans—all of them, even the bizarre and implausible. (That may be this part of the process’s sole legacy.)

For someone who makes a living covering design, it’s both touching and exhilarating. At the very least, this is the most fascinating architectural exhibition since Philip Johnson introduced the Moderns to the continent 70 years ago. It’s too early to know what the results will be. I’m willing to wait.

» More World Trade Center coverage

Categories: Cities