CLOG: World Trade Center

December 21 2014

Freedom Tower has been topped out, the ribbons cut and the missives launched. The consensus from across the spectrum so far? Epic fail. Or at least, a massive missed opportunity and disappointing anticlimax for the most anticipated American architectural project of the century so far. And so, there has never been a more appropriate time to reconsider its two-pronged predecessor, that oft-maligned symbol of war and geopolitics CLOG examines in its newest title, World Trade CenterAccording to CLOG, though, “We didn’t do the issue because the new WTC is bad, but because the old one was so good!”

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Designed by the exceptionally prolific architect no-one knows, Minoru Yamasaki, the ambitious project was to become, in the words of the architect, “a living representation of man’s belief in humanity.” Yamasaki’s firm outlived him by more than two decades—he died in 1986 while Yamasaki Associates soldiered on until 2010—but its prominence spanned only his lifetime and he was behind dozens of polarizing midcentury monoliths, from Pruitt-Igoe—the world’s most notorious housing project—to Rainier Tower in Seattle (the “beaver building”) and the gloriously high modern Century Plaza hotel in L.A.. You know his buildings whether you know it or not.

Much like its abstract form, the story of the World Trade Center is a deceptively opaque one—and one that’s all too often reduced to a pair of grey rectangular extrusions, never not beholden to the specter of their explosive ends. World Trade Center charts the ins and outs of the ol’ WTC from its planning and the demolition of the old Radio Row neighborhood that sat on its site, on through its rather novel construction process and the remainder of its ignominious existence.

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World Trade Center is the latest in a long line of timely CLOG publications that tackle sweeping, sometimes nebulous, topics—past titles include Rendering, Miami, Sci-Fi, Data Space, and Apple—and iron them out into approachable, tangible narratives. And though they’re all rooted deeply in architecture, CLOG’s holistic narratives—which fuse history, theory, data, graphs, anecdotes, sketches, interviews, models and first hand accounts—work wonders for avoiding the yawn-again pitfalls of so much wilfully arcane architectural literature.

In fact, they’ve become vanguards of a new type of architectural discourse: not bogged down only in esoteric theory, but experiential, anecdotal and all-encompassing. We’d even speculate that their love letter to beton brut last year, Brutalism, is at least partially responsible for the vogue concrete seems to be experiencing at the moment (jewelry, furniture, London’s resurgent love for the Barbican and renewed calls for halting pending demolitions of several brutalist icons). The big tomes Rem and Bjarke Ingels Group paint as complete and personal a picture of today’s two most important architects—at least as far as we’re concerned—as might be found anywhere.

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Processed with VSCOcam with m5 preset A glimpse at the intensive research that goes into each issue. 

The unique format, according to CLOG, was intended to be a reaction against the blog cycle. In architecture, that clickbait treadmill reduces epic, drawn-out projects of not only architectural work, but bureaucratic maneuvering, economic good fortune and the will of countless individuals to indifferent tidbits among thousands. Cursory words, slick photos, (empty) grand statement. Next. We’d take it one step further, though, and argue that its singular formula even outdoes both the respectable and incisive editorial of venerable architecture titles like Domus, Architectural Review and Mark in terms of depth, as well as any single author book with its limited perspective and personal agenda. CLOG’s contents are kept resolutely offline, in order that the works remain immersive, distraction-free experiences. And not only are they exhaustive, the curiosity and sheer joy that goes into making them is abundantly clear in every volume.

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CLOG has close ties to PlayLab and Family, two off-the-wall brilliant practices who opened up to us about their wildly successful collaboration on +Pool in Human Being Journal 5. There’s something so refreshing in the earnest approach the two share, and their work is full of lessons in openness and boundless curiosity—all on full display in CLOG.

Look forward to their next release, Guggenheim, out early next year.

Special thanks to Archie Lee Coates IV.