Shane Reiner-Roth is a writer and co-founder of Tall Work (Instrumental Plausibility). Through publications, exhibitions and speculative projects, his work examines the means by which certain objects appeal to an economy of expression by communicating higher values than their own on the cheap. He is currently a research fellow at the MIT department of architecture.

History of the World Trade Center, Part II

History of the World Trade Center, Part II

Featured in Clog Journal (The World Trade Center Issue)
Fall 2014
Pages 80-81
With Kyle Branchesi

Fired, robbed, bombed, and tightroped, the towers of the World Trade Center shared enough tribulation and whimsy in their existence to last two lifetimes. As two very sore thumbs in the southernmost tip of the most famous city in the world, they were a common spectacle on display and in use. Their well executed mix of iconicity and abstraction lent them to familiarity, and the shared height and voided plaza between them allowed their qualities to be observed without rival.

Like the obligatory period at the end of a sentence, the towers were crammed in the margins of nearly every poster for movies set in New York City. As the most well known emblems of late Modernity, the World Trade Center towers were habitually taken out of their routine and fictionalized alongside their twenty­eight year lifespan.  In movies and television, the few qualities that made the towers distinct were tested and closely examined in an alternate, parallel world.

The towers had their first upset in 1976 when King Kong passed up the Empire State Building to climb the two skyscrapers (they appear close enough to be appropriated as a single massive ladder). After throwing satellite bits of Tower Two at shooting helicopters, causing one of them to crash just beneath him, he fell to the plaza in between with a big crack and thud.(ref 1)

In that same plaza twenty ­one years later, Homer Simpson was attending to his booted car when a man in Tower One began to shout obscenities at him. A man in Tower Two apologized on his behalf and claimed that “they stick all the jerks in Tower One.” A man in a tank top several stories up can be seen drying his clothes between the two towers in a scene one might imagine in rural Italy.(ref 2) This sequence bestows the towers with a certain kind of character not often associated with Yamasaki’s unique brand of Modernism.

Fast forward thirty years and the two towers, now extruded to twice their height and decked with multiple sky bridges, supply the materials for an aging Robin Williams android.(ref 3)  Alternatively, they are totally decayed (though not at all diminished in familiarity), as seen specifically through the eyes of Morpheus.(ref 4)

Their doubleness is their saving grace as their features are pulled and prodded, and their fine austerity can apparently withstand a lot of editing. The possible futures of the towers could indeed be endless.


1 King Kong. VHS. Directed by John Guillermin. Universal City, CA: Universal Pictures, 1976.
2 The Simpsons. Film. Directed by David Silverman. Los Angeles ,1997.
3 Bicentennial Man. DVD. Directed by Chris Columbus. Los Angeles, 1999.
4 The Matrix. DVD. Directed by Andy Wachowski. Burbank, CA: Warner Bros. Pictures, 1999.

Figural Monuments

Gateway Tower Gated