The exhibit shows a proposed residential development in South Korea by Dutch architects MVRDV. The architects call it The Cloud because they want to create a sense of buildings rising through â€śthe cloudsâ€ť.
Critics however reckon they look like the twin towers exploding. I see what they mean, but Iâ€™m not certain that wouldâ€™ve been my first thought. Had I not had the WTC meme inserted in my brain from the outset, I mightâ€™ve interpreted it first as some form of cancerous growth â€“ a sarcoma â€“ growing out of the faĂ§ade of an otherwise benign host.
This guy calls it â€śSafde/Habitat on uppersâ€ť. It certainly reminds me of Moshe Safdeâ€™s famous Habitat 67 housing project in Montreal. Itâ€™s like an enthusiastic gardener grafted Safdeâ€™s DNA on to Mies van der Roheâ€™s and this is the result. Maybe it should be interpreted as the architectural equivalent of sampling in music!
Still, itâ€™s hard to believe the architects didnâ€™t see the twin towers connection themselves (this observer reckons they did but arenâ€™t owning up to it). The way observers have reacted isnâ€™t surprising really: thereâ€™s a picture in MVRDVâ€™s PR material of two cloud-wrapped, generic looking towers â€“ the inspiration for the idea â€“ that look remarkably reminiscent of the WTC.
Iâ€™m not convinced emulating clouds is a compelling way to go about designing buildings that are literally tall enough to be in the clouds. Seems a bit like double counting. Still, clouds is a less pretentious explanation than the ludicrous guff offered by the architects of this similar-looking building.
Nor do I think the design does well on its own terms. As an expression of cloud-wreathed towers, MVRDVâ€™s design is an unmitigated flop. Thereâ€™s nothing in that heavy, concrete â€śgrowthâ€ť that comes even close to evoking the wispy, ethereal sense of clouds. They’re delicate, light, insubstantial and wraithlike – this proposal isn’t. Itâ€™s no wonder many people think of the twin towers.
But unlike some others, I donâ€™t accept the design is in any way immoral, insulting to the USA, or a free ride for Al Qaeda. The human mind seems to have a special talent for projecting associations onto the slightest suggestion or stimulus. I accept the architect’s explanation that the 9/11 interpretation wasnâ€™t intended â€“ itâ€™s something weâ€™re projecting from our experience. It wouldn’t get past first base in the US, but I suspect the vast bulk of the worldâ€™s population wouldnâ€™t see it in terms of 9/11, or care.
Book giveaway: followÂ this linkÂ to be in the running for one of two copies of Jarrettâ€™s Walkerâ€™s new book, Human Transit