Sunday 19 Aug 2018 | 15:48 | SYDNEY
Sunday 19 Aug 2018 | 15:48 | SYDNEY

'Mashrabiya' in the WTC Towers


Sam Roggeveen


24 August 2010 11:21


Here's something I didn't know about New York's World Trade Center towers (h/t Marginal Revolution):

(Architect Minoru) Yamasaki was following the Islamic tradition of wrapping a powerful geometric form in a dense filigree...According to Oleg Grabar, the great American scholar of Islamic art and architecture, the dense filigree of complex geometries alludes to a higher spiritual reality in Islam, and the shimmering quality of Islamic patterning relates to the veil that wraps the Qa'ba at Mecca. After the attack, Grabar spoke of how these towers related to the architecture of Islam, where "the entire surface is meaningful" and "every part is both construction and ornament." A number of designers from the Middle East agreed, describing the entire façade as a giant "mashrabiya," the tracery that fills the windows of mosques.

And there's a twist. The Bin Laden construction empire probably worked on several of Yamasaki's Saudi commissions. Hence...

Having rejected modernism and the Saudi royal family, it's no surprise that Bin Laden would turn against Yamasaki's work in particular. He must have seen how Yamasaki had clothed the World Trade Center, a monument of Western capitalism, in the raiment of Islamic spirituality.

Photos by Flickr users Jose P Isern Comas and Kevin H, used under a Creative Commons license.