The WTC Memorial Saga Continues

Boston Globe architecture critic Robert Campbell's recent article brought a disturbing piece of news to my attention: a group of losing competitors (about 400 currently) in the WTC Memorial Competition, headed by Jeff Johns (a NYC transit authority employee), is going to file a lawsuit that alleges the jury chose a design that broke the competition guidelines. Called the World Trade Center Memorial Focus Group, they cite two problems that are mentioned in the article:

1. "The guidelines said the memorial competitors should work within the master plan for the whole World Trade Center, created by Daniel Libeskind. But in Libeskind's plan, the memorial site was to be located in an area sunk 30 feet below street level. The winner brought it up to street level."
2. "The guidelines said nobody was allowed to be a member of more than one competing team. But after being chosen as a finalist, Arad added to his team a well-known landscape architect, Peter Walker, who had previously submitted a losing entry of his own."

My response to those statements would be: 1. A lot of competitions are won by entries that break the rules in some way, so it is a common occurrence and making a jury (or in this case the LMDC since they wrote the guidelines) liable to stick to those guidelines could affect other competitions, and 2. Peter Walker was brought on to help Arad after the latter was named a finalist (in my opinion to improve upon the barren plaza that received criticism in the press), so Walker was no longer a competitor and any conflict seems nonexistent.

The article also mentions how some losing competitors feel the whole process was basically a charade to institute the design of one of the jurors, Maya Lin, because Arad's design closely matches both a memorial sketch done by Lin a year before the competition and the minimal aesthetic of Lin's Vietnam Veterans Memorial. That sounds ridiculous to me, especially since the jury was comprised of twelve other people, deliberating over anonymous designs for many months to determine the best of the 5,201 designs, so how one juror would control the process boggles me. Although this contention does raise questions (what if the LMDC wanted a Lin design but ran a competition just to save face?), but it's a subject based on speculation instead of fact.

Basically, I don't think any good can come from filing a lawsuit against the LMDC or the jury. It could affect other competitions and the willingness of organizations to hold competitions for built work, but it also might make the public perceive architects as whiny egomaniacs who aren't happy unless their design is chosen...though the public might already think that.