Sweet Sixteen Acres

The oddly angled, vaguely deconstructivist entry pavilion, by the Norwegian architecture firm Snøhetta, gives no hint of what’s to come: a series of ramps leading down to vast underground spaces, the largest of which, called the Foundation Hall, is so big that massive artifacts from 9/11 – a mangled fire truck, a pair of “trident” columns from the destroyed Twin Towers – seem tiny. 

But it’s not just the size of the subterranean spaces in the National September 11 Memorial & Museum that makes them powerful. Davis Brody Bond, the architects of the museum, labored to keep the everyday at bay. Mundane elements – lights, vents, and speakers – were carefully hidden so the rooms would be quietly majestic, the slurry wall presiding like New York’s Wailing Wall, the Survivors’ Staircase a stairway to heaven. In this museum, the outside world feels very far away. The ground is hallowed, and we’re in it.

The Insecurity Of History

To live every instant as though it were the last – that is the paradox of futurism, of a futurism of the instant that has no future. We might note that it also spells the decline in the propaganda of an endless Progress that, only yesterday, still fueled the history of past centuries. That history is now so wired, so hysterical, that it even claims to foresee actions, the reality of events that have not yet occurred. You’d think that, tomorrow, we’ll be able to construct an actual “History of the Future” – thanks to long-term forecasting. Such micro-narratives would impose themselves on the millennium of the avowed facts, as if the perspective of the real time of instantaneity suddenly annulled all durability. For, thanks to certain software programs and the modeling they allow, the mythology of futurism is even gearing up to renew the myths of our origins and of antiquity.