On Historic Day, Michael Kimmelman Counts Off ‘Calamities’ at WTC—Beware Public Works

Yesterday, while everyone—even its newly surpassed sibling the Empire State Building—was busy cheering the ascent of 1 World Trade Center

He likes what he sees—do you? (Getty)

Yesterday, while everyone—even its newly surpassed sibling the Empire State Building—was busy cheering the ascent of 1 World Trade Center to the heights of the skyline, one New Yorker taking a more critical, perhaps even cynical, look. Michael Kimmelman, The Times‘s architectural annointer, took to his popular Twitter feed to point all that was wrong at Ground Zero.

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We first read that as “execrable tragedy.” Still, it is not exactly new territory for the World Trade Center, where Mr. Kimmelman’s predecessors at The Times, along with WTC chronicler Paul Goldberger, among others, have taken all or part of the rebuilding effort to task over the years.

It fits with Mr. Kimmelman’s place-over-shape theme, too, which was also in evidence in his latest column, from the Sunday paper, looking at the new Marlins stadium in Miami. More than simply considering the value of the building in and of itself, he spends a fair amount of time attacking that old saw, the public financing of stadiums.

Lumbering and dizzyingly white in the Florida sun, the new Marlins Park is an elliptical concrete, steel and glass boulder looming above the low-rise houses and empty lots of the Little Havana neighborhood. With retail on the outside and a public plaza in front, it’s designed partly to gin up some street life. Economic development is supposed to follow — that was the rationale for the public financing that covered most of the $634 million project ($515 million for the park itself) and contributed to the recall of Miami-Dade County’s mayor. Cities are always building new stadiums with the justification that they’ll catalyze the local economy. They rarely do.

[…]

Mr. Loria, who took over in 2002, argued that it was pointless to spend money on top players without a domed stadium. Detractors said he was blackmailing the city into paying for a new park, meanwhile pocketing revenue-sharing millions from other teams that were meant to go toward a beefier payroll.

But then in 2007, Miami officials consented to a new stadium on the site of the former Orange Bowl, a couple of miles from downtown. The city provided the land and $13 million. Miami-Dade County paid nearly $350 million for the bulk of construction, with the Marlins kicking in $161.2 million. The pliant architecture firm Populous, formerly HOK Sport, which designed Yankee Stadium and nearly every retro ballpark during the last two decades, was hired to do the architecture.

The message, in both the case of Little Havana and Lower Manhattan is buyers beware—especially the government is doing the buying on your behalf.

Still, Mr. Kimmelman seems to like what he sees in Miami, vapid as it is, and maybe that’s the point. He does well enough decrying the faux-retro stadiums that have dominated for the past two decades—a near-constant refrain when discussing this park—without fully endorsing it. This is three capital-a Architecture reviews in a row for Mr. Kimmelman. Keep them coming! Perhaps a full write-up of the World Trade Center is in order.

mchaban [at] observer.com | @MC_NYC

On Historic Day, Michael Kimmelman Counts Off ‘Calamities’ at WTC—Beware Public Works