World Trade Center was unsafe at any height

Thursday, September 13, 2001 at 1:00am

This sentence is being written at 4:45 a.m., September 12, less than 24 hours after the World Trade Center rains death down from the skies.

Among the babble that continues nonstop on National Public Radio is a dispatch about the New Jersey medical triage unit set up to handle some of the victims. The reporter says the first step for intake is to hose down all the patients to decontaminate their bodies covered with asbestos dust.

Even before the full dimensions of tjis tragedy are known, and the horrific loss of life is tallied up, once more, like some NFL Super Bowl score, it seems safe to say that the World Trade Center was unsafe at any height.

In the mid-1960s, consumer advocate Ralph Nader wrote a devastating critique of a new automobile design which he called Unsafe At Any Speed. Something analogous, architecturally speaking, resulted a few years later with the erection of the 110-story twin towers of the World Trade Center.

Forget for a moment, who may have crashed the two airliners into the World Trade Center towers. Focus only on the architectural hubris (akin to the Tower of Babel) that created the WTC.

With an eerie prescience, that makes the hair stir on the back of the neck, architectural critic Paul Goldberger, writing soon after it was completed in 1977, in his The City Observed: A Guide to the Architecture of Manhattan (1979). Ends with this chilling epitaph:

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