The only reason to applaud the glacial progress at Ground Zero is that time remains to ditch architect Daniel Libeskind’s ghoulish blueprint for the 16-acre World Trade Center site. While the Pentagon again looks as it did on September 10, 2001, the hole al Qaeda carved in Manhattan’s Financial District still is exactly that — a hole. Squabbling, foot dragging and a vacuum of political leadership have left things about where they were when the post-9/11 clean-up ended on June 2, 2002.
While this stasis is frustrating, things would worsen if the Berlin-based Libeskind’s ghastly scheme accelerated. His jagged skyscrapers, collectively suggesting an explosion at a machete factory, would abut a 30-foot hole beside the WTC’s concrete foundation. It, in turn, would recall the Berlin Wall.
How did Libeskind conceive this lugubrious nightmare? Fishing from the Pavement, a collection of his poetry, opens windows on the world of Libeskind’s psyche. The view is scary.
“Only those who are frightened by worms possess sanity, desecrate gilded towers, endure,” Libeskind writes. “Our days steadily bevel Mt. Zion into a figure resembling a tormented, destitute woman wrapping detonating charges around her forefathers before the gates were opened.”
As the New York Post
reported June 4, Rotterdam’s Netherlands Architecture Institute published this 1997 volume. In it, Libeskind obsesses over excretion.
“America turns its mass-produced urine antennae toward Caesar’s arrogant ganglion, while history is advocated by utopians as a substitute for defecating,” Libeskind explains.
Elsewhere he observes: “Executives are praying to a chicken, confident of their brazen dream in which cherubs can not grieve but are instead forced to defecate on ruins in their doctor’s presence. Cities fold their legs under tunnels. Culture will be reprieved when the lamb straightens out its doubly coiled intestine.”
Libeskind’s free verse should raise eyebrows among Christians.
“Totalitarianism is a magnificent idea which will eventually destroy the supremacy of White Biology. But a successful portrait of Jesus cannot be as beautiful as a painting depicting the sycamore tree unto which he swooped.”
“Jesus invented seduction by exposing the mother to a contemptuous kangaroo court. But Jesuits inverted seduction by being first to spit in local theaters. Though gifted, these military-minded gentlemen campaigned eagerly on behalf of the sly, the snobbish; assailed memorials by turning them into plastic souvenirs.”
“Christ had definite allergies, as do missionaries: both gadgets camouflage the truth by disguising themselves as infants, or change the appearance of dead sylphs, bound to move the surroundings.”
“God is spying on you. Please be sure to repeat the cold war while there is still a scent of chloroform in the nest.”
“No tantrum with respect to you — a Jew with plenty of time pouring sentiment into Kabbalah. Violet-blue dripping without terror: a liability.”
“Parade of distinguished clairvoyants, small child slaughtered under a microscope, grouping with a side table in stone. Auschwitz or Hollywood?
“Jews temper the message of Passover by intravenous commentaries. Christians acquiesce to a future in which any sedate typist pretentiously displaying software will be disguised as a dry shrub or a civilian.”
“Rabbi Yose had one thing in mind, really: that one should cut the stubble growing on the Torah obliquely.”
“Tempestuous Jewess, commence your flight on a ship sailing for Riga, all pink. She’d rather disrobe in public than slow the hedge-sparrow in glass.”
“Moslems resent that neither Allah nor the scent of a future B.C. can be resurrected by gently pulling the nose’s hard ridge with a somber gesture of the hand — the same one they use to launch little paper airplanes in the market.”
Penning grotesque poetry is no crime, but Americans should tremble at Libeskind’s capacity for further embarrassment.
These stanzas could be dismissed as eccentric scribbles if Libeskind knew a thing about erecting skyscrapers. The dirty little secret is that he never has built one. His signature project is Berlin’s three-story Jewish Museum. Handing Libeskind the WTC portfolio is akin to asking a ninth-grader who never has taken the Scholastic Aptitude Test to face a doctoral defense in engineering.
One keystone of Libeskind’s edifice already has crashed to the ground. His “Wedge of Light” was supposed to bless the new WTC plaza with pure sunshine between 8:46 and 10:28 a.m. every September 11 — precisely marking the first assault on Tower One and its final implosion after Tower Two’s collapse. Unfortunately, as architect Eli Attia discovered, Libeskind overlooked the Millennium Hilton Hotel immediately east of the WTC. Its shadow would bathe Libeskind’s vision in darkness every 9/11.
Libeskind also seems to be exploiting this sensitive assignment. He appears in the July editions of 15 Conde Nast publications. His ads for Audi brag that he was “awarded the commission of the century.”
Amid mounting criticism of his plan, Libeskind and his wife, Nina, have grown defensive. He says it was endorsed by a “powerful public consensus.” She says it was chosen “by the people.”
Actually, rebuilding activist Justin Berzon — author of the “Standing Tall” proposal to restore the Twin Towers — cites a 2002 survey for the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation conducted as the public debated alternative submissions. While 25 percent of respondents supported Libeskind’s entry, 33 percent backed the THINK architectural team’s latticework scaffolds that suspend cultural facilities high above Gotham’s sidewalks. And 42 percent chose “Neither.” In other words, Libeskind’s “powerful public consensus” won the bronze medal, behind nothing!
The LMDC originally recommended THINK’s concept. Alas, New York’s epicure-in-chief, Governor George Pataki, pressured the LMDC to stop THINKing and select what I call Libeskind’s Switchblade Park.
Given Libeskind’s jarring literature, tasteless self-promotion and the absence of affection for his work, the LMDC should hand him a severance check and let WTC lease holder Larry Silverstein rebuild. The Twin Towers should return, as before, only stronger. Turning them into high-rise enterprise zones — featuring substantial relief from corporate and commercial-rent taxes — would populate them in a jiffy. If skittish tenants spurned upper floors, they could be used for dining, hotel and conference facilities. Patrons of such businesses would visit only occasionally — a much less intimidating proposition than laboring there daily.
Creative minds could resurrect the Twin Towers. But barring that, Silverstein should be unshackled to construct something — anything — but Libeskind’s brittle collection of crushed glass and splintered steel.
Until then, Americans should live by these words of wisdom from the mind of Daniel Libeskind: “If you could delay the cat from joining a zero laterally with itself you might be the last to die.”
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— Mr. Murdock is a columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service.