How would you respond if a homebuilder proposed a gated community called “Dachau Gardens,” or a jewelry designer offered a gold and diamond broach in the shape of a Swastika? You’d probably think it was in poor taste, at the very least. So what do you suppose the architects who thought of this were (not) thinking when they came up with it:
Not to worry. Our favorite Washington Post art and architecture critic Phil Kennicott—the same fellow who thinks Occupy DC is showing a new vibrant urban form that we should all swoon before (which prompted Power Line’s video tour of Occupy DC last month)—thinks we’re all being too precious about this:
The controversy seems part of a larger cultural effort to make the events of September 11, 2001 somehow sacred, to use the meaning of the terrorist attack for larger, more overbearing cultural control. So now it is being deployed against contemporary architecture, not because there is anything inherently offensive in this design (which may or may not be an intentional reference to 9/11), but because the emotions generated by the attack have been co-opted by one part of the political and cultural spectrum.
Architects have long been exploring ways to turn buildings inside out, to peel away their external skin, to represent them as if melting or hurtling through space. The metaphor to “explode” a building might well be used as a positive architectural value, to open up space, break down formal strictures, allow multiple points of access. So even if the Dutch design firm, MVRDV intended a reference to 9/11, there’s no reason that reference should be read as mocking or ironic. It might easily be seen as an effort to freeze frame a traumatic event, in architectural form, and neutralize its shock and pain.
We report, you decide.