Coming to terms with a new Manhattan skyline

The effect of Tuesday’s horrific attack on New York City was shocking not merely for the number of casualties and the fear it evoked. Many New Yorkers were shocked to witness the demolition of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center which, for over 30 years, seemed a permanent fixture in the New York skyline.

The towers themselves, modeled upon the International Style of architecture, lacked the gothic detail of the Woolworth Building or the industrial energy of the art deco Empire State Building. The two towers were most notable for their height — once standing as the largest buildings in the world. Indeed, their prominence lay in their cold, metallic dominance over other skyscrapers.

When the buildings were constructed, they revolutionized the architectural design of the city. Whereas skyscrapers had, for many years, competed for supremacy over the sky, these monoliths surpassed their brethren in majesty. “In New York the rising spires of the skyscrapers of lower Manhattan were finally invaded by the flat slabs of the International Style — These instantly reduced the scale and quelled the wonderfully competitive action of the earlier towers,” according to Sterling Professor Emeritus Vincent Scully’s “Architecture: The Natural and Manmade.”

He notes that the building of the “tall but inert twin chunks of the World Trade Center” decimated that competition for a while. In the middle of New York’s financial district, two bodies symbolized the importance of the city, and the staid, financial strength of America.

Yet ultimately a new brand of skyscrapers would begin to compete with the towers. Rejecting the sterile International Style, they “showed a renewed respect for urban principles.” Although not as tall as the towers, they provided a restored aesthetic.

Now, through the cowardly actions of terrorists, these competitors are all that remain.

A famous vista of New York harbor showed the Statue of Liberty, proudly welcoming immigrants to the city. Freedom and prosperity await those who pass under her torch. Ahead lies a dazzling city of towers, glass, steel, and production. The creative and industrial capabilities of the United States found their home on one small island, with the Twin Towers noting the might of the city.

But Tuesday’s camera angles showed a different picture. Debris and smoke covered the skyline. There was nothing welcoming about Lady Liberty, who seemed to usher newcomers toward chaos. A thick layer of ash covered streets, parks and men while sirens echoed.

When the debris is cleared and the smoke passes, Americans will undoubtedly be shocked by the new skyline. Symbols of industrial and global strength will seem to be gone.

The destruction of the Twin Towers has created a new view of the city.

As shocking as this new skyline may be, we must turn to it and attempt to fortify our confidence in America. In the midst of our mourning, we must try to find the confidence in our nation that has made us the most powerful country on earth. Those who glance at the city may take hope in rediscovering the powerful architecture that was often eclipsed by the overpowering towers.

Where monoliths once stood, many new bodies take their place in our sight, while older buildings can be seen again. The competition for supremacy of the skyline will continue as the city reclaims its pride. New buildings will take the place of the old.

At times of conflict such as this, New Yorkers and all Americans will look for stability and comfort. Such comfort once came out of two dominating figures. The cowards who caused this act of war have, ironically, revealed the continued strength of the nation.

The Statue of Liberty will still usher men toward a bustling city, whose rediscovered architectural monuments offer a testament to American ingenuity, strength and permanence.



Justin Zaremby is a junior in Calhoun College.

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