Another tragic automobile accident claimed the lives of two promising high-school girls over the weekend. Quite predictably, grief counselors are descending vulture-like on their school this morning.
It’s a safe bet than none of the youths will be told to suck it up and be dignified.
That is because we have become, as architectural critic Catesby Leigh points out in a disturbing piece on the proposed Pentagon memorial to casualties of the 9/11 crash, a nation that revels in grief (you must read his description of the bizarre memorial to fully appreciate the aesthetic horror):
“[T]he therapeutic mission was plainly paramount. Not surprisingly, the six finalist schemes that emerged from a field of 1,126 submissions all focused on ‘loss’ or ‘absence,’ and all of them were of the same reductive, conceptualist ilk. …
“The main idea behind this design seems to be that the memorial units, with the names of their loved ones inscribed on the benches’ front ends, will help the bereaved reach closure. The precedent is the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the Mall, with its multitude of names listed in the chronological order of death. But leaving aside the fact that the chevron-shaped Vietnam memorial is spatially compact, clearly focused on its vertex, and handsomely inserted in its landscape setting, it is becoming increasingly clear that the therapeutic culture’s dominion over memorial design since Maya Lin’s triumph has swiftly degenerated into a tyranny. This tyranny suppresses any expression of civic idealism, let alone spiritual destiny.
“The therapeutic and documentary elements on the Ground Zero memorial menu include a vast, leafy plaza with waterfalls spilling into the huge twin-tower voids; a subterranean mezzanine with parapet-walls inscribed with the victims’ names girding the waterfalls; a subterranean multimedia museum exceeding 100,000 square feet that includes vestiges of twin-tower foundation slabs and an exposed segment of the slurry wall that held back the waters of the Hudson when the towers collapsed; a monolithic cenotaph, with an opening to the sky punched out of one of the twin-tower pools above; and refrigerated containers with victims’ unidentified remains that would be visible from an adjacent chamber reserved for family members.
“At this writing, the question is how the restricted budget will modify this depressing menu, whose underground elements have raised security concerns.”