Architecture's potential for good


Of all the interviews conducted for One World Trade Center: Biography of the Building, none spoke more profoundly to the human condition than the one with Craig Dykers of Snøhetta, architectural designers of the 9/11 Museum Pavilion, as well as the SFMOMA expansion, the new Times Square, and the Library at Alexandria, among many projects.

An excerpt from my interview with Dykers on the 9/11 Pavilion:

What drew us to the project in the first place, to make the bold move to place culture on a memorial site, which is against the utopian ideal of what a memorial is, is valuable to society. That if you cleanse it, purify it and make it pure as a memorial only, it doesn’t tell us enough about who we are as people.

I think something needs to be a little bit rough and not perfect to make the place authentic, and that’s why I fought hard to keep our building there. It has nothing to do with ego or our need to have a building there. It was to make a statement about the whole of the memorial site because every project in my mind has a value, so for me, the memorial, if you look at the design, is incised into the earth and the earth is where we often bury the dead. That’s where we see the past as being preserved, so the memorial looks at an event in the past.

The [WTC] skyscrapers are incised into the sky and they’re optimistic. They’re about commerce and the future. They make us believe in the future. There are these two worlds, the past and the future, and our building is the present. It’s this little thing that connects the past and the future, and it’s a link between those two worlds.

This film on founders Kjetil Trædal Thorsen and Craig Edward Dykers expresses their vision of buildings that serve their communities. The Wall Street Journal recently named the firm the Architecture Innovator of the Year. As Ian Volner writes in the WSJ, “For far longer than perhaps any other firm working today, Snøhetta has been ‘saying no to any ultimate design theory,’ as Dykers puts it, touting instead an architecture free of banner slogans and signature styles. This can make it difficult to get a clear picture of what Snøhetta is really up to. But it’s also what makes the firm so interesting to watch.”

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Copyright © 2019 Judith Dupré. All rights reserved.