New York Times Architecture Critic Thrashes The Design Of One World Trade Center

One world trade center
Not good enough. REUTERS/Mike Segar

On Saturday, New York Times writer Michael Kimmelman made it known that he doesn’t like the design of the new 1 World Trade Center.

Not even a little bit.

In his story “A Soaring Emblem of New York, and Its Upside-Down Priorities,” Kimmelman writes that the David Childs-designed building is “what happens when a commercial developer is pretty much handed the keys to the castle.”

Kimmelman’s major problem with the Financial District’s shiny new tower is that it lacks any soul. Even the symbolic height can’t sway the architecture critic (emphasis ours):

It abruptly stops at 1,368 feet, the height of the former twin towers, achieving its symbolic target number — 1,776 feet — by virtue of a skinny antenna. Counting the antenna is like counting relish at a hot dog eating contest. But it sufficed for the arbitrating Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat. So, the building is the tallest in the Western Hemisphere, as if that ever meant anything.

He goes on to say that the building doesn’t draw anyone’s eye the way the twin towers once did. “Most New Yorkers hated the twin towers,” Kimmelman says, but at least they “changed, depending on where you stood… as you moved around the city.”

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Kimmelman thought the original twin towers were more visually interesting. AP Images

In contrast, the One World Trade center is too symmetrical, too heavy, and too ordinary since it looks the same from every direction. “There’s no mystery, no unravelling of light, no metamorphosis over time, nothing to hold your gaze,” Kimmedlman opines.

One World Trade Center
The 1 World Trade Center still under construction. Getty Images / Michael Loccisano

Of course, he does acknowledges how hard it must have been to build a skyscraper that not only strived to be the tallest in the Western Hemisphere, but also took on an immense amount of responsibility and symbolism after 9/11.

And Kimmelman does say that he likes the building’s supersonic elevators and the vaulted, white-washed lobby. He even admits that the architect Childs had a lot of other ideas for the tower, but many of those were vetoed and the final product was not his original vision.

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Employees work in the lobby of the One World Trade Center tower in New York, November 3, 2014. REUTERS/Mike Segar

But the good intentions and modern interior are not enough to save the design, which Kimmelman calls a “cautionary tale” as well as “the last thing a young generation of New Yorkers wanted.”