The wrong memorial

The wrong memorial
: In tomorrow’s Times’ Arts & Leisure section Michael Kimmelman identifies the right problem and the wrong solution for the World Trade Center memorial.

…now that everyone agrees that the ground zero memorial finalists are a disappointment, there’s only one thing to do.

Throw them all out.

You have the power to do so. Use it. This is in part a memorial to extreme bravery in the face of overwhelming force. Here’s a chance to be brave.

OK, fine. That is becoming the quiet consensus of New York.

But Kimmelman’s solution is all too much of The Times: He argues that the solution is elitism.

He wants to name a bunch of high-reputation architects to take it over.

But it is architects who created this mess.

Architects gave us a mess of a World Trade Center design and set impossible conditions for the memorial.

Architects dominated the jury.

Architects designed the finalists.

Architects speaking to architects, that’s where we are now.

But Kimmelman thinks that the process was just too populist, too banal, too common.

Forget vapid populism. Limit the competition to participants of the jury’s expert choosing. Then let the jury select the best plan, if and when there is one. If that’s elitism, so be it….

The jurors should put together a group of the most serious artists and architects, so many of whom declined to participate in the original omnium gatherum, and see where their specialized talents could lead us.

That would be antipopulist–and perhaps a political fiasco. But it would be the right thing to do.

How very Times.

No, it’s elitism that got us this far.

Don’t judge the process on the results thus far; don’t judge the entrants on those selected; judge the jury.

I don’t necessarily trust this jury to find the right memorial. They certainly haven’t done it so far. And thus I certainly don’t trust them to find elite architects to start over.

Why don’t we first look at the 5,201 submissions; why don’t we judge their heart and soul and vision; why don’t we find an essential idea — instead of the overbaked muddles we ended up with out of this juried process?

A truly wise jury would look at all those submissions and find one essential idea that speaks for this memorial and for the memory and for the future. And if it is not there in those 5,201 heartfelt submissions, then they would seek more ideas and seek more time to make this decision properly.

But this, I fear, is not that jury.