If you’re following the ginned up controversy over a proposal, by the Dutch architecture firm MVRDV, to build twin towers that appear to be “exploding,” I gave my short take on the Post’s “Arts Post” website. Here’s the crux of it:
The controversy seems part of a larger cultural effort to make the events of September 11, 2001 somehow sacred, to use the meaning of the terrorist attack for larger, more overbearing cultural control. So now it is being deployed against contemporary architecture, not because there is anything inherently offensive in this design (which may or may not be an intentional reference to 9/11), but because the emotions generated by the attack have been co-opted by one part of the political and cultural spectrum.
Architects have long been exploring ways to turn buildings inside out, to peel away their external skin, to represent them as if melting or hurtling through space. The metaphor to “explode” a building might well be used as a positive architectural value, to open up space, break down formal strictures, allow multiple points of access. So even if the Dutch design firm, MVRDV, intended a reference to 9/11, there’s no reason that reference should be read as mocking or ironic. It might easily be seen as an effort to freeze frame a traumatic event, in architectural form, and neutralize its shock and pain.
Update: On second and third thought, it’s remarkable how old-hat the idea is. A vertically uplifted edition of Habitat 67?