Published  02/09/2002

Manhattan in memoriam

Manhattan in memoriam

The continuing question over what should rise or spread on the World Trade Centre site becomes increasingly pertinent as 11 September approaches. Of course in mediaeval Europe, assuming the perpetrators had been caught a series of gibbets would have risen, with their weights swaying gently in the Atlantic breeze. But a more benign rationale has encouraged numerous notables, from Salman Rushdie on, to speculate as to what is the most appropriate and timeless commemoration. At the beginning of this year the Max Protetch art gallery organised an ideas exhibition. These ranged from a giant American flag, to an ingenious spiral stair by Steven Holl that curved and twisted around the vacuous centre of it all. Two vertical beams of light were another inspired concept, leaving the site area wholly clear below for ‘normal life’. In all Protetch assembled at the time some 45 architectural concepts. Prominent among these were Zaha Hadid and also Will Alsop (the latter never one to miss a rhetorical opportunity from Britain. The most moving entry was Daniel Libeskind’s jagged assembly of towers, which still conveyed something of the ruinous site, yet rising out and upwards powerfully. Meanwhile developer Larry Silverstein hired two architectural firms to develop a new scheme for the 99-year leasehold that he owns. Memorably too, photographer Joe McNally had made 85 portraits of the actual surviving individuals, fire heroes, Red Cross workers, even animal rescuers, priests and news photographers — some of these portrayed with up to seven feet high images. McNally’s subjects visited him in his own studio in lower Manhattan. The exhibition is doing the rounds across the US now, following its initial airing in Grand Central Station. It should come soon to Europe.

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