William Drenttel | Essays

Rationalizing Absence

[Left: Michael Arad + Peter Walker, Reflecting Absence, 2004.
Right: James Turrell, Hover, 1983.]

I believe these images speak for themselves. When a German photo agency mistakenly released new renderings of the World Trade Center memorial design yesterday, they opened a pandora's box because the architects and planners involved did not have time to prepare their sound bites of design rationalization. I hope they will at some point acknowledge the "influence" of James Turrell, our greatest designer of spiritual spaces.

Posted in: Architecture, Arts + Culture, Social Good

Comments [4]

"You think philosophy is hard enough, but I can tell you it is nothing to the difficulties involved in architecture" Ludwig Wittgenstein ('Recollections of Wittgenstein', Rush Rhees, editor, Oxford University Press, 1984)
mark yoes

Whoa, that's a strong accusation you're layng down.

Admittedly, I know little to nothing about architecture or "spatial art", but I do know that many inventions are known to have been developed independently in geographically dispersed locales. Is it possible the same thing has happened here? I'm sure there are any number of similar spaces developed by pre-Columbian cultures, the Ancient Egyptians, etc. Should we also recognize their contribution to the WTC memorial?

The influence of any one execution of an idea is increasing hard to trace in our ever swirling cross-cultural soup.
Todd W.

A void seems entirely appropriate.
There is a similar idea in a memorial located in Berlin dedicated to the burning of books.
Mignon Khargie

I think the issue is not one of making accusations.

The larger issue is that the WTC memorial process has not allowed time for this work to be fully digested; for influences to be understood and acknowledged; or for impact on the urban environment to be accessed. [See Michael Bierut's related piece for more on this subject.]

In the case of James Turrell, your point about inventions "developed independently in geographically dispersed locales" is accurate. Turrell has widely acknowledged the influence of everything from WWII bunker architecture, to Indian sites for astrological observation, to American Indian worship of the sky.

I believe Michael Arad + Peter Walker are fully aware of the work of James Turrell, and assume his influence will be acknowledged at some point.
William Drenttel

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