dull straight white men with money & power score again

FOLLOW UP on "two shades of green"

Yesterday it was an article in New York magazine which triggered my despairing post about developments at the World Trade Center site. Today it's the New York Times. Why are they getting upset only now, when it's almost certainly too late to stop the grinding gears of business-as-too-usual as we stand on the side awaiting the arrival of banality-and-much-worse?

The first paragraph of the following quote appears as the introduction to the piece in the NYTimes print edition this morning, but is curiously missing on the website, depriving David Dunlap's text of much of its sense for electronic readers, and even producing quite a different spin.

The faces staring upin horror that morning from the streets of Lower Manhattan were every color. So were the faces staring out from the "missing" fliers around the city. But the hands drawing the plans for the new World Trade Center are almost all white.

What may have been lost in the transition are voices; voices that might have questioned basic assumptions about a program in which skyscraping commercial development is to accompany the memorial, cultural and open spaces; voices that might have asked whether a public domain under tight control is truly public.

The New York architect J. Max Bond Jr., whom the paper describes as "both black and an éminence grise in architectural circles," advocates a process which would include not just minority voices but those of poets, philosophers and artists.

He also takes issue with proposals to put pseudo public spaces in private hands, [a development which has increasingly burdened New York over the last few decades], and suggests that opening participation in decision making to the larger community would have exposed such follies.

Many designs for the site called for gardens, shops, museums, restaurants and viewing platforms on high floors or at the top of buildings. But Mr. Bond said any space under strict scrutiny was not universally welcoming.

"It's always been difficult for young blacks, for young Hispanics, for anyone who looks aberrant to get access to the upper realms of Wall Street towers," he said. "For a city of immigrants, the public realm is more than ever now the street. If I'm a Dominican kid and my immigration papers are not quite right, I'll never go up there because I'll never dare show my fake ID.

"All these public spaces are going to be like shopping malls: privately controlled. You won't be able to wear a T-shirt that says, `Down with Ashcroft' because that will be viewed as hostile or threatening."

And on the subject of skyscraper superlatives Bond's comments show the full extent of his modern humanism:
"There's a macho thing that keeps coming out: we should build a building that tall to show them," he said. "Not everyone shares that sensibility. It's a particularly male, Western sensibility.

"I'm not saying people of color are wiser. But women, people of color, gays, immigrants have all had to look at themselves. They have experienced the underside of society in a much more profound way.

"Architecture inevitably involves all the larger issues of society."

Including, obviously, the issue of who really retains the power.

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Published on October 16, 2003 1:01 PM.

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