Friday, September 9, 2011

Towering Tragedy

As terrible as the toll of the 9/11/01 attacks on New York was in terms of human lives lost, that horrendous toll also includes the loss of modernist landmarks.  The collapse of the Minoru Yamasaki-designed twin towers of the World Trade Center left a gaping hole in lower Manhattan that is finally being filled after a decade of contentious property and design struggle.  

Although Frank Lloyd Wright may well have scoffed at Yamasaki's sleek, modern skyscrapers, there is at least one indirect connection between the two architects:  the 1968 First Day of Issue ceremony for the two-cent Frank Lloyd Wright stamp's Buffalo debut was held at the Yamasaki-designed One M&T plaza [see "Wright's Two Cents"], with dedication remarks that put Wright in a larger context of modern buildings in Buffalo (a context that might have made him squirm if he had heard them).  

In light of the ten-year anniversary of these tragic events and two wars in their wake, Yamasaki's assertion concerning the symbolism of the WTC takes-on an eerie quality of inverse historical foreshadowing:
The World Trade Center is a living symbol of man's dedication to world peace... a representation of man's belief in humanity, his need for individual dignity, his beliefs in the cooperation of men, and, through cooperation, his ability to find greatness.
One can only hope that the One World Trade Center tower ("Freedom Tower") now rising above the WTC site can fulfill Yamasaki's altruistic vision, as his former landmarks ultimately failed to do.

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