Dutch architectural firm MVRDV has come under fire for its design for a pair of planned towers in Seoul, South Korea after sketches for the design reveal a pixeled cloud connecting the twenty-seventh floors resembles the effect of the World Trade Center towers collapsing during the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
Ten years after the Twin Towers exploded in smoke and flames, MVRDV designers claim they are highly surprised by the reaction, and claim people's interpretation of the tower design was completely unexpected.
That hasn't stopped the architects from receiving serious threats against them, however, and an interview where the designers admit being inspired by the Sept. 11 attacks to create The Cloud won't help the case against them.
Twin Towers Spark Controversy
The proposed design for the twin towers in Seoul, South Korea, called The Cloud, feature a pair of towers with a pixeled cloud-like shape connecting them on the twenty-seventh floor, expanding outwards in a way that looks as though the buildings are exploding.
When the designs appeared on Dezeen Magazine's web site, commenters immediately began to note the design's resemblance to World Trade Center explosions, and slammed the Dutch architects for their controversial vision.
MVRDV must have considered the fact they were recalling imagery from the 9/11 disaster when they developed this design, one commenter posted. They're either sick or ignorant. This design is offensive.
This is like 9/11 freeze framed, what a bad idea, another wrote. This is better suited as Al-Qaeda headquarter[s]!
Gizmodo Australia, covering the design, was less inflammatory but just as blunt: What The Hell Were These Architects Thinking?
Since the designs went public, the Dutch architects have received threatening calls and numerous emails. Though no death threats have been reported, MVRDV may start to take safety precautions if the controversy continues to heat up.
It seems likely that it will. One incensed viewer, writing in, accused them of being Al Qaeda lovers... or worse.
'We are highly surprised.'
Since the World Trade Center angle broke, MVRDV has issued an apology over the design, claiming they had no intention of offending Sept. 11 victims or even of evoking the Twin Towers.
We are highly surprised by the reactions this design has caused, as there was no intention to create a resemblance to 9/11 or hurt anybody's feelings, spokeswoman Isabel Pagel told Co.Design.
The architects behind the project elaborated on Pagel's comments through their Facebook page. It was not our intention to create an image resembling the attacks nor did we see the resemblance during the design process.
We sincerely apologize to anyone whose feelings we have hurt, the statement concluded. The design was not meant to provoke this.
Defending 'The Cloud'
Amid the growing controversy surrounding what a few have dubbed the South Korean Twin Towers, some have risen to the Dutch firm's defense.
Co.Design, in an analysis of the architectural scandal, wrote that it's pretty clear that they [MVRDV] didn't intend to channel the World Trade Center explosions into their design. Some commenters, meanwhile, have also spoken up for the designers.
Guys, besides the 9/11 do you see anything else? any architectural comment? a bit more constructive ? one commenter posted. Intriguing, another wrote.
One commenter even said that if the design was influenced by 9/11, it still didn't mean the towers were offensive.
So what if it reminds you of 9/11? the commenter, writing under the screen name God, posted on Dezeen. Maybe this was the architect's vision - to recreate a still and paused image of 9/11... to see how it would be to occupy that exploding mass caused by the plane collisions to see how to fill all of that loss and horror into a pleasant space.
Step out and smell the fresh inspiring air people.
Even those who question the designers' taste, meanwhile, still admire the architecture in and of itself, which the architects took great pains in their apology to highlight.
The Cloud was designed based on parameters such as sunlight, outside spaces, living quality for inhabitants and the city, they said. It is one of many projects in which MVRDV experiments with a raised city level to reinvent the often solitary typology of the skyscraper.
'I have to admit that we also thought of 9/11.'
Despite some few spirited defenses of the project, however, the idea that MVRDV never thought of the World Trade Center attacks during design has several holes.
First is the location of the planned towers in Seoul, South Korea.
As The Weekly Standard points out, The Cloud will be built within the Youngsan Dream Hub, much of which is designed by Daniel Libeskind. This same Libeskind was the original architect behind the redesigned World Trade Center complex, and the area where the MVRDV buildings will be constructed closely resembles Libeskind's original plan for a revamped lower Manhattan.
The location issue is further compounded by the fact that MVRDV made a name for itself as a firm of career rebels, and has courted controversy, particularly U.S. controversy, in the past.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the Dutch firm designed a house for some of the victims as part of Brad Pitt's Make It Right foundation, but created a design that evoked the hurricane's aftermath, sketching designs for houses bent double or rocketing upward as if from strong winds and twisted at odd angles.
Still, the most damning piece of evidence against the architects' intentions is something MVRDV designer Jan Knikker let slip to Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad.
I have to admit that we also thought of the 9/11 attacks, Knikker said, before hastily adding, But the intention wasn't to draw an association with the attacks.
'We need architectural Michael Moores.'
Regardless of the bad press, however, it's likely that MVRDV will push ahead with the original design, though Pagel says the firm's clients are not so sure.
If the example of MVRDV head Winy Maas is followed, however, the architectural firm will continue only to apologize for offending, not for the design itself.
Provocation is good, because it pushes people, Maas told Metropolis during the Hurricane Katrina backlash. We need architectural Michael Moores.