Banksy Bashes New World Trade Center Design

Slate’s design blog.
Oct. 29 2013 6:30 PM

Banksy Bashes New World Trade Center Design

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People walk in the 9/11 Memorial plaza last May as One World Trade Center goes up in New York City.

Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

As part of his self-appointed unofficial “artist's residency on the streets of New York,” world famous British graffiti artist Banksy published a critique of the design of One World Trade Center on his website after it was rejected by the opinion pages of the New York Times. Times spokeswoman Eileen Murphy said: "We couldn't agree on either the piece or the art, so it was rejected," reported CNN.

“That building is a disaster. Well no, disasters are interesting. One World Trade Center is a non-event. It’s vanilla. It looks like something they would build in Canada,” he wrote in a faux mock-up of a New York Times front page under the headline “The biggest eyesore in New York isn’t the graffiti, argues Banksy, it’s under construction at ground zero.”

The artist’s provocative critique goes on to claim that the new structure lacks a “spine,” calling it “a shy skyscraper” that looks like an awkward teenager trying not to be noticed at a party before asserting that the building is a “betrayal” of those who lost their lives on September 11 and “clearly proclaims the terrorists won. Those 10 men have condemned us to live in a world more mediocre than the one they attacked, rather than be a catalyst for a dazzling new one.”

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The new building, he says, “declares the glory days of New York are gone,” and then somewhat preposterously suggests: “You really need to put up a better building in front of it right away,” as if constructing multimillion dollar skyscrapers is as easy as painting them with graffiti.

He ends the rant by calling the building “a one thousand foot tall sign that reads - New York - we lost our nerve.”

Banksy illustrated his self-published op-ed with a black-and-white illustration of One World Trade with the words “replace with better artwork” written in red across it. He also ran images of a wall he’s tagged in Greenpoint with the words “This site contains blocked messages” above the rejected editorial.

Banksy was clearly miffed that his shouty design critique wasn’t validated by the paper of record, (which would have been a coup, given that Mayor Bloomberg has been going around saying that he’s defacing the city). But taking gratuitous pot shots at Canada and taking offense on behalf of the fallen victims of a terrorist attack don't make the piece any more persuasive. And his design critique feels a little too late, as if he had just learned of the always controversial, long-running project during his month as a tourist on the streets of NYC. Maybe Banksy should have stuck to his own signature brand of painted brick wall rhetoric to make his perfectly legitimate point that the building lacks both the “spirit” and the “audacity” that has always lured the rest of the world to NYC. 

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