Does Art Imitate Life? – New Building Design Raises Questions

Van Gogh's "Starry Night"

Submitted by Gene Howington, Guest Blogger

Does art imitate life? When it does, is that imitation in the eye of the beholder or the mind of the artist? Does it make a difference? A new building design raises those very questions.

Two luxury rental towers designed by Daniel Libeskind of Dutch architectural firm MVRDV raised ire this week when the designs were revealed to the public. Scheduled to be completed in 2015 as part of the Yongsan Dream Hub in the South Korean capital of Seoul, the two rectangular towers feature a “cloud” that would connect both buildings on the 27th floor. Some people think the design is evocative not of a cloud, but of the events of 9/11.  The fuss started Friday after Dutch newspaper the Algemeen Dagblad published a front-page architectural rendition of the project under the headline: “Inspired by Twin Towers?”

Here are some artists renderings of the building design in question.

All images are copyright MVRDV and used without permission.

Some people have had negative reactions to the design.  MVRDV immediately posted an apology on their Facebook page that reads, “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 design was not meant to provoke this.”  However, MVRDV’s Jan Knicker added in the original article ran by Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad (in Dutch) “I admit that we also thought about 9/11 for a second, but it was not our intention to create an association with the attacks.”  Some have not accepted said apology.  Among those were Jim Riches, a retired New York Fire Department deputy chief whose son was killed on 9/11 who said he didn’t believe the architects.  “I think it’s a total lie and they have no respect for the people who died that day.”  “They’re crossing a line.”  “I think they’re trying to sensationalize it. It’s a cheap way to get publicity.” ED. NOTE: My apologies for the chopped up nature of the previous quotes, but it was unclear from the source if Mr. Riches’ statement was contiguous or edited for their post of the story.

Is this art imitating life?  Is it art imitating the natural world as the architects say or art imitating tragedy as the detractors say?  What do you think?

Source(s):,, Algemeen Dagblad, Huffington Post

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~Submitted by Gene Howington, Guest Blogger

29 thoughts on “Does Art Imitate Life? – New Building Design Raises Questions”

  1. Gene,

    I have always liked designs others positively hate and am always surprised by their reactions to the thing I think is beautiful. (Tex thinks it’s one of the most hideous things he’s ever seen.)

    I would be interested in tomdarch’s opinion.

  2. Blouise,

    I think I’d have liked it better if the there were more “cloud” sections to break up the rectangular structures. As it is, it kind looks like a big H and while on the surface it might seem I’d find that appealing in the design, it just just doesn’t work for me. Not naturalistic enough to make the concept work I think. An idea executed in half-step.

  3. I must really be out there because I like it … a lot and i would live in such a building

    I also loved his WTC designs.

  4. Note to my fellow Americans: Not everything is about you.

    Me? I think the design is interesting, but ugly. Or maybe that’s butt ugly. In any case, I take no offense. That said, I don’t go around looking to take offense. Some people seem to live to take offense.

  5. lol. Surprised the fundies haven’t made the tower of babel connection yet.

    The original design looked kinda like a plane had passed half way through one of the buildings. It was meant to signify high flier but some one pointed out the connection and that it might be too soon so they settle for this one which is meant to symbolise blue sky thinking.

  6. Mike, something that ugly would never be built in an Islamic country. For one thing, Islamic art tends to be beautiful, graceful and esthetically pleasing. All of which that monstrosity is not.

  7. Whatever the inspiration I think the design is abysmally ugly as per OS. Given that, my question is why is it being built? If its design was purposely meant to refer to 9/11, who would want to rent in such a building unless it is to be an Al Queda worldwide HQ, but then why not Saudi Arabia and not South Korea.

  8. I kind of like the daytime flying view, now imagine what happens to one of those trees during a big windstorm.

    “We regret that your aunt was killed by a tree that dropped from 600′ from a skyscraper’s cloud level….”

  9. Gene, that is the ugliest damn building I have ever seen. Even if you discount the obvious resemblance to the 9-11 events, it is still as ugly a mud fence.

    Some architects simply should not be allowed anywhere near a pencil and paper, never mind CAD software.

  10. jack,

    “why would anyone want to ‘sensationalize’ the 9/11 attacks (other than politicians, of course)… particularly the architect who got sacked from rebuilding ground zero?!”

    Interesting. Psychologically speaking, that is a question that could be said to answer itself. Firing from a job has motivated people to do all sorts of crazy things, both consciously and subconsciously. Is that the case here? Who knows? However, I will agree the buildings are ugly. It’s an interesting idea though. I can see the whole “in the clouds” thing possibly working, but this design sure ain’t it.

  11. how utterly absurd that this could cause any offense. why would anyone want to ‘sensationalize’ the 9/11 attacks (other than politicians, of course)… particularly the architect who got sacked from rebuilding ground zero?! and why would any architect want to evoke structural destruction?!

    victims always seem to think that everything is about them. get over it.

    i agree though that the buildings are ugly though.

  12. I think it’s idiotic to think they intentionally meant to offend or exploit.

    Still the whole thing is doubly ironic, and perhaps gives some proof there might indeed by a Freudian unconscious given Daniel Libeskind’s role in designing the new World Trade Center.

    However, the design, at least from the street level, and not from the level of the 1%centers does look a lot like the iconic images of 9/11.

    There were a lot of ways to remedy that, perhaps by altering the shapes or relative volumes of the buildings, perhaps by adding more clouds.

    (An article from a month or so back on the web circulated discussing why the canonical web cloud is a straight line, perched on top of that are three curves of varying symmetry and size . Search for cloud logos, boom, generic minimal cloud.)

    Daniel Libeskind seems to be a bit of a kook, which is why the art/architect world seems to love him. His first WTC tower was mostly worthless, and so were designs 2, 3, … So finally they build something that seems to have none of his influences at all.


    Outrage complete.

  13. I have to agree with the NYPD Deputy fire chief. This design is made to look like it just got hit. The picture is still fresh in my mind and when I looked at the design I was shocked. That being said, bad taste is in the eye of the beholder. I just don’t believe the architects apology and I do think the buildings look ugly.
    Great job Gene.

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