Kas Oosterhuis: Emotive Architecture

Kas Oosterhuis on his 'Emotive Architecture' proposal: 'Our proposal for WTC 911 shows a self-executable and programmable hi-res building which reconfigures its shape, content and character during one year of its life-cycle.' His project is also accompanied by a statement that begins rather provocatively - 'The war in Afghanistan took more lives than the attack on the WTC. Why do most people feel different about the death toll in Afghanistan than about the sudden death of the WTC and 3000 users? Are some killings more just than others?' But it is primarily an argument for a programmable, adaptable, interactive, living architecture.

Winka Dubbeldam also submitted a design in which the building responds to external conditions. 'Flexcity' is dependent on data-determined economic variables (such as the share index and migration patterns) and on choice-determined social variables (such as local politics and tourist input). The building increases and decreases in density as these conditions fluctuate.


Winka Dubbeldam: Flexcity

Among the 50 participants are three Dutch architects: Kas Oosterhuis, Lars Spuybroek and Winka Dubbeldam. All three submissions display striking similarities in their view of the architecture of the future in general and of this emotionally charged site in particular. All three buildings have cast off their static character and become dynamic and interactive.

In his 'Oblique WTC' proposal, Lars Spuybroek (Nox) envisions a swirling spaghetti-like cluster rising from Ground Zero: 'Elevators form a highly complex structure of diagonals where at some platforms more than five or six different cores come together to form larger public areas. It is this network of elevators which makes the buildings not just a new type of tower, but more like a new type of urbanism.'

Protech was responding to the catastrophe as probably every architect did after the initial shock: What can be built to replace the destroyed towers? For some, his response may seem rather odd, as though architects would jump with joy at the chance of a fantastic new development on a prime site. But it also demonstrates the boundless optimism and belief in a better future that, after all, is so typical of architecture. And let's be honest, those towers weren't exactly beautiful. Apart from our abhorrence of the attack itself, there is much to be said for not leaving the gaping hole carved out of Manhattan empty too long, but filling it with a new World Trade Center. Or, as Protech himself says: 'These are just ideas. In the long run the greatest memorial is going to be a really great piece of architecture.'

Deyan Sudjic may be right when he writes that the future of the site will be shaped 'not by the imaginations of the dozens of architects who did take part in the show, but by the roomful of developers, insurance loss-adjusters and politicians even now carving up the area.' Nonetheless, it is interesting to see how architects respond to this schizophrenic situation, this choice between unlimited horror and limitless possibilities. In the meantime, the first architectural intervention has already been completed. Liz Diller 'designed' a viewing platform for the growing stream of disaster tourists wanting a glimpse of the gaping hole. She does, however, now have doubts about the whole endeavour. 'If we'd known just how many people were going to use it, I'm not sure that we would have done it.' She was not the only one. Though many designers responded enthusiastically to this quickly assembled exhibition, others - Richard Meier and Peter Eisenman among them - declined to take part.