koyaanisqatsi and the wtc
Peter T. Chattaway
Oct 18, 2001 10:28 PDT
Looking through some old papers I had lying around, I came across a column
that I'd missed when it first ran back in September, on the architect who
designed the World Trade Centre towers. Turns out he also designed the
housing projects that are blown up in the 1983 film _Koyaanisqatsi_, my
fourth-favorite film of all time. All this time, I had kind of assumed
that 'Pruit Igoe' (as the music for that scene is called on the disc) was
just another Hopi phrase or expression, but it turns out it wasn't.
- - -
Architect's cherished hopes for humanity crushed
Towers stood for freedom protected by great strength
By John Bentley Mays
By 1986, when death came for Minoru Yamasaki, architect of New York's
World Trade Center towers, the post-war optimism by which he had lived and
practised his art was everywhere in tatters.
The myth of America's military invincibility lay buried in Vietnam. The
notion that freedom and prosperity would produce the rule of the just and
wise died during Watergate. The frontier legend of America's rugged
self-sufficiency evaporated in the early 1970s, when the largest
oil-producing nations turned off the taps.
Ten years before he died, Yamasaki witnessed a particularly cruel slap to
his Modernist conviction that good architecture can make good people. Put
up in 1955, the Pruitt-Igoe housing project in St. Louis was to have been
a shining example of public housing that uplifted and encouraged. By 1975,
Pruitt-Igoe had become a horror house of violence, crime and squalor.
Seeing no point in pouring new money into attempts to fix things, the
authorities turfed out the residents who had not already fled, and ordered
the project professionally dynamited. The spectacular destruction of this
equally spectacular architectural failure has become the stuff of legend
among younger architects, some of whom date the death of post-war idealism
from the day Pruitt-Igoe went down.
Around the time his beliefs were presumably reduced to dust and rubble in
St. Louis, Yamasaki had recently finished the most impressive and famous
project of his career, in New York City. It was the pair of huge signature
towers that completed the seven-building complex known as the World Trade
Center, operated by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. It was
also to be a dream come true for the architect.
"I feel this way about it," Yamasaki said after his work was done. "World
trade means world peace and consequently the World Trade Center buildings
in New York ... had a bigger purpose than just to provide room for
tenants. The World Trade Center is a living symbol of man's dedication to
world peace ... Beyond the compelling need to make this a monument to
world peace, the World Trade Center should, because of its importance,
become a representation of man's belief in humanity, his need for
individual dignity, his beliefs in the co-operation of men, and through
co-operation, his ability to find greatness."
[ snip ]
--- Peter T. Chattaway --------------------------- email@example.com ---
"I detected one misprint, but to torture you I will not tell you where."
Winston Churchill to T.E. Lawrence, re Seven Pillars of Wisdom