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The Protetch Show

Notes from Robert Ivy, FAIA Editor-in-chief

That’s what it will be called. Last night, we witnessed something of an architectural feeding frenzy, as the crowds swelled into a sea and the media circled like sharks. To see the opening on the national news, you would never dream how quickly things had come together.


Only 2 months ago, Max Protetch, the gallery owner who specializes in the art of architecture, determined that he wanted to contribute to the World Trade Center tragedy by holding a show of architectural ideas. He called me, flush with the idea, as well as others, and asked for help in whom to ask—not just the expected names, although some would be welcome, but also young talent that might not be expected to contribute. Iconic names like Zaha Hadid and Steven Holl would mix it up with newer lights such as Office d’A. Surprises: some architects, like the visionary Paolo Soleri, called and asked to be included (he was welcomed); the opening wall held ideas from the late MacArthur-award winning architect Sam Mockbee, who died in December. AR’s editorial staff came up with a longish short list of 150 names to consider, but Max made the final cut.

Essentially, the participants had a month to come up with an idea, which they prepared gratis, including models; 3-dimensional, digital proposals; and drawings. After brief coverage in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, his appearance on the Today show sealed events: we were headed for frenzy.

Max had been criticized, indeed subject to at least one individual’s righteous rage in a public forum, over holding the show without consulting more New York-based architects; other thoughtful architects and planners have suggested that it is too early to jump to “object-based” solutions. I disagree. The clamor we witnessed underscores a tremendous public thirst for answers for lower Manhattan. Max’s response, which is that of a proprietary gallery owner, includes architectural expressions by bright minds worldwide that equate in some cases to memorials placed in the linear shrines at Union Square, in other cases to thoughtful initial ideas. Perhaps none should be viewed as solutions, but rather as proposals, essays, or personal expressions. In that light, all such ideas have currency.

Here’s the bald truth. With major networks present from the US and Europe, and lines around the block, the throng was so intense that I haven’t really seen the show yet. You’ll see selections of the show in our pages soon, so check it out yourself in our March issue. Meanwhile, I’m recovering from the crowd.

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