New York Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman wrote what many of us have been thinking since we began watching the obelisk of tinted SUV windows rise out of Lower Manhattan: 1 World Trade Center is a boring, "monomaniacal" corporate monument. A pointy Duane Reade. A cellophane'd turkey sandwich. A Sharper Image toothpick.

Kimmelman's review is Brutal (For The Times).

It’s what happens when a commercial developer is pretty much handed the keys to the castle. Tourists will soon flock to the top of the building, and tenants will fill it up. But a skyscraper doesn’t just occupy its own plot of land. Even a tower with an outsize claim on the civic soul needs to be more than tall and shiny.

You can hear the iPhone shutter sound cacophony of the staff at Architectural Digest screenshotting this bad boy:

It abruptly stops at 1,368 feet, the height of the former twin towers, achieving its symbolic target number — 1,776 feet — by virtue of a skinny antenna. Counting the antenna is like counting relish at a hot dog eating contest. But it sufficed for the arbitrating Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat. So, the building is the tallest in the Western Hemisphere, as if that ever meant anything.


Kimmelman's main beef is that for all its state-of-the-art guts ("Supersonic elevators"! Glass! Golly gosh!), 1 WTC is "something akin to an old-school office park, destined to die at night," thanks largely to developer Larry Silverstein and the craven politicians who lined up to put their stamp on a lifeless trophy.

There may be hope yet. Kimmelman writes that "Life has a way of taking over even the most unpromising places in New York," which is already true at 1 WTC: rats have reportedly made the Vogue offices their home.

And hardly anyone calls it The Freedom Tower anymore. Not only is that a jingoistic slur, but Freedom deserves a more dynamic symbol than a giant hood ornament.

In the end, Kimmelman refers to 1 WTC as a "cautionary tale," which sounds about right. The next time you hear a developer complain about public opposition to carefully laid plans or read an editorial informing us of The Way Things Work, look up. This is our city, they're just building on it.