Freedom Tower Design Neither Unique Nor Iconographic

Last night I attended the monthly meeting of the WTC Redevelopment Committee of Community Board 1. Silverstein Properties presented the progress for the design for the Freedom Tower. David Childs of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill was the presenter.

In his presentation, Childs drew parallels between the Freedom Tower design and the Washington Monument as “equally iconographic, unique and memorable: something a child would draw after a field visit.” What he does not understand, I submit, is that the Washington Monument is not an architectural icon, and the Freedom Tower is not a memorial. The Washington Monument is endowed with a rich history, the image of a national hero and a beloved father of our nation. It is what we bring to it that creates its monumentality, its iconographic quality. As architecture, it is merely a large obelisk standing tall out of a horizontal park setting, unencumbered by competing features.

The Freedom Tower, as designed, is predictable. Its height will make it stand out, but there the comparison to the Washington Monument ends. As with the original World Trade Center it is height, not original form and configuration, which will make the Freedom Tower so visible. The invitation to create original, iconic architecture at the World Trade Center site has been squandered.

The proposal to have the communications spire designed by Kenneth Snelson does offer some hope for a memorable Freedom Tower. Snelson’s structural sculptures are dramatic and exciting. Such a sculpture, visible from afar, could evolve to be iconographic. In such a circumstance, the Freedom Tower itself may even serve as an adequate pedestal.

Roland Gebhardt
Roland Gebhardt Design
New York

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