When a building is well designed (like the Eiffel Tower or St. Basil’s), it can become an emblem or symbol of its nation. What building symbolizes the United States and the lifestyle it represents? According to terrorists on September 11, 2001, the World Trade Center in New York City epitomized all that America represented. The World Trade Center was designed by Minoru Yamasaki and construction was begun in 1967. The Twin Towers were the site of federal, state, and corporate financial firms and offices. Aesthetically, they display repetition as both towers were identical in shape, material, and surface pattern. Due to the height of the towers, the windows needed to be narrow to prevent blow-outs. Ribs vertically rise from the ground to the summit creating a consistent linear pattern or rhythm on all four sides on each tower. The spacing of the ribs is consistent throughout. The exterior materials was a light weight aluminum in order to achieve maximum efficiency and create a shiny high value metallic surface against the darker coloration of the windows. In order to add in more linear variety, Yamasaki placed pointed arches near the bottom for an organic flow at ground level.

 

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The new vision of the World Trade Center is designed by Daniel Libeskind. Rather than two towers, this vision consists of only one, and also due to the reluctance on the part of prospective tenants to relocate into a tower which again will be a target for terrorist aggression, the top third will not be inhabited, but an open sculptural space. Further embodying the virtues of patriotism, the new tower will be 1,776 feet tall, referencing the date of America’s proclamation of its independence from tyranny and establishment of the democratic ideals.

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Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, 1997, is the most recent architectural experiment. Gehry created the design with computer programs that could maximize the potentiality of the materials used. He was able to bend walls to their maximum, resulting in a building seemingly organic, or alive. Solid surfaces seem to bend as if rubberized. The entry at right remains cubic and basically vertical and horizontal. The central section twists and turns as if melting like the watches in Dali’s Persistence of Memory. The tower at left seems sliced in half revealing its skeletal frame while it slowly collapses. Located on the water, the museum’s surface picks up reflected light depending on the time of day. In the photograph, wall surfaces are colored in blue and orange (complimentaries). High and low value, light and shade, play across the surface enlivening the hills and valleys of the building itself.  What makes Gehry’s structure so unique is the unexpected variety in shape, line, color, value and texture, which is in a continual state of metamorphosis depending on the quality of the natural light. It breaks the mold and our traditional expectations of what a building should look like.