When Dutch architectural firm MVRDV unveiled its plans Wednesday to build two luxury residential towers connected by a cloud-like bridge in Seoul, it was relatively well-received by the architectural blogosphere — that is, until, other critics noted its resemblance to images of the exploding World Trade Center towers and hit the architects with a backlash of criticism. (Gizmodo's headline, "What the Hell Were These Architects Thinking?" is just a taste of it).
“A real media storm has started and we receive threatening emails and calls of angry people calling us Al Qaeda lovers or worse,” the firm stated in an apology on its Facebook page. “MVRDV regrets deeply any connotations The Cloud projects evokes regarding 9/11, it was not our intention.” In its defense, MVRDV also described “sunlight, outside spaces, living quality for inhabitants and the city” as its considerations in designing the project.
Families of 9/11 victims are not impressed by the apology. "I think it’s a total lie and they have no respect for the people who died that day," retired New York Fire Department deputy chief Jim Riches, whose son was killed on 9/11, told the New York Daily News. "They’re crossing a line."
MVRDV offered an image of the buildings (appropriately titled The Cloud) being bridged by an actual cloud as its inspiration. Other renderings show the pixelated-looking bridge, a 10-story structure which would connect the two buildings at their respective 27th floors, brimming with pleasant amenities: a fitness studio, swimming pools, cafés, and a serene little koi pond. Unfortunately, the images don't particularly shutter any visual comparisons to a cloud of debris.
The two towers were positioned as the entrance of the Yongsan International Business District, or “Dream Hub” project envisioned by Daniel Libeskind, who, in one final dose of irony, was the master planner behind the rebuilding of the World Trade Center. Despite the adverse reactions, the South Korean developers Yongsan Dreamhub corporation have no plans of altering the design. "Allegations that it was inspired by the 9/11 attacks are groundless," said Yongsan representative White Paik, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. As of now, construction is still scheduled to being January 2013.
The firm seems to have an ongoing history of insensitivity in the face of human tragedy. In 2008 MVRDV designed homes for Hurricane Katrina victims on behalf of Brad Pitt’s Make it Right Foundation, the dramatic angles of which inexplicably (and intentionally) looked as if they had survived a hurricane. They were never built.
To see other renderings of MVRDV's "The Cloud," click on the slide show.