His first post criticizes the design and engineering of the Freedom Tower, basically saying that the design isn't something to be proud of, and that it does not send the proper message to those who want to terrorize and scare our nation. He also insinuates that the monetary ties of the Lauder family (heirs of Estee Lauder's cosmetics fortune) to New York governor George Pataki played a deciding role in Libeskind's selection for the WTC site's master plan, since the architect is a friend of the family, after all.
In his next post Shuster tells us there is an evident lack of pride and confidence in the Freedom Tower design, and he proposes the only (in his mind, apparently) alternative: rebuild the Twin Towers "slightly off-set from where the old ones stood." A vote is put to the readers to choose between "America's Freedom Tower" and "A new Twin Towers."
His most recent post from last Friday indicates that 80% of the 3,483 respondents to the poll voted for the Twin Towers to be rebuilt, "stronger and mightier than ever." To Shuster, the reality is that Americans want the Twin Towers to "rise again."
SOM's Freedom Tower montaged with the rest of the master plan in Lower Manhattan is on the left; a replica of the Twin Towers is on the right.
The desire to rebuild has been in evidence since September 12, 2001, but Shuster appears to be going beyond his journalistic limits into activism, under the guise of exposing the "truth" behind Libeskind's selection. Granted that many people don't like Freedom Tower and its surrounding master plan, but here's what I think is wrong with Shuster's argument and tactics:
The Twin Tower weren't loved until they were destroyed. They were a unique presence on the skyline, but they were terrible on the ground and cut off different parts of Lower Manhattan from each other. So we must ask if rebuilding the towers should be done in this regard. Shuster frames his argument as either/or; either we rebuild the Twin Towers or we build the Freedom Tower. Besides ignoring other options (such as Michael Sorkin's idea of a park on the site and the distribution of building over the five boroughs), he's arguing apples and oranges, since the Freedom Tower is but one component of the WTC site's plan which spreads out the 10 million s.f. of office space over five towers, not one (or two in the case of rebuilding). And even though the Twin Towers were two buildings, they were twins, in effect acting like one entity split by a gap. With quotes like "not rebuilding [the Twin Towers] is a defeat" and "Anything less is a memorial to fear," symbolism is taking priority over the improvement of the urban environment. Rebuilding them would indicate we haven't learned anything, about our situation or the people that attacked us (necessary but never the part of the equation in these arguments). Influence over the Freedom Tower design does not appear to be an option, instead the argument becomes, "We don't want that. Rebuild the Twin Towers!" Perhaps Mr. Shuster needs to look somewhere in between these two. Seeing that the design of the Freedom Tower has malleability (since it never existed and is only a collection of ideas on "paper") is much better than settling for an already-designed relic...at least in my opinion. This malleability wouldn't seem to be the case, but that's due to the egos involved more than the desire to create something meaningful on the WTC site. The tower's - and the master plan's - fate aren't written in stone, so the activism Shuster proposes can possibly have effect, but let's hope it's not for his original aim.
But I'm not writing all this because I like the Freedom Tower design (I don't) or hate the Twin Towers (I always like the space in-between each tower and the way they anchored Manhattan on the skyline), but because I think the whole rebuilding (the site, not the Twin Towers) process needs to be open to many alternatives, not just the either/or situation Shuster poses, a proposition as dire as Bush's "you're either with us or against us."
Update 03.13: Deroy Murdock, at the National Review Online, pushes for a reconstruction of the Twin Towers (via Archinect).