Ground Zero, Ellsworth Kelly, 2003
The attacks on World Trade Center once seemed to me like something that demanded a clear, unequivocal design response. But after four years of political jockeying
, architectural gestures
, litigious countergestures
, and cynical commitments to culture that barely qualify as lipservice
, the role of design at that charged, emotional site seems more ambiguous, and contested, than ever.
In September 2003, the artist Ellsworth Kelly
sent architectural critic Herbert Muschamp
a collage representing his proposal for the site: nothing. Or, rather, a simple rounded carpet of green grass. "I feel strongly that what is needed is a 'visual experience,' not additional buildings, a museum, a list of names or proposals for a freedom monument." These, wrote Kelly, would be "distractions from a spiritual vision for the site: a vision for the future."
The urgency of a massive new building project in an overbuilt market, at a moment when hundreds of thousands of Americans have been rendered newly homeless
, is worth questioning. Kelly's proposal, which stuck me as a copout two years ago, now seems honorable and wise. There will be time enough for building.