an article about Roustam Nour
- Dear friends,
A few days ago New York's Russian-language newspaper Novoye Russkoye Slovo published an article about Roustam Nour, a Tatar artist who was featured in The New York Times article a few months earlier. The NYT article called him "the most successful street artist in New York City." Roustam Nour is one of several people who have their own visions of rebuilding the site of the former World Trade Center. Here is the English translation of the article from Novoye Russkoye Slovo:
LET'S NOT PART WITH OUR SYMBOLS
The competition for the best project to rebuild "ground zero" disappointed both specialists and the public. I will not analyze all the merits and shortcomings of the proposed projects to rebuild the World Trade Center. But let me just point out that this task is extremely difficult. That's because it has more to do with politics and symbolism, than with esthetics and practicality.
New-York-based artist Roustam Nour came to our editorial office to take part in a radio program sponsored by the Russian-language radio station "People's Wave." He showed us his own drawings of the project for the restoration of the twin towers. After seeing them, I suddenly realized what was missing from most other projects previously exhibited in the Winter Garden in New York City. Roustam Nour proposes to rebuild the towers almost in their original form with several substantial construction improvements.
Why is this important? One of the main goals of the terrorists was to disfigure the look of the informal capital of Western Civilization, to cause irreparable damage to it. Majestic towers, plain and proud, formed the landscape of lower Manhattan and symbolized the political and economic strength of the US and the whole democratic world. If the appearance of the city were to change dramatically, the terrorist attacks would have been to some extent successful. That's why symbolism plays such a crucial role in this matter.
Here is an analogy, perhaps not exact but very illuminating: The rebuilding of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow. The cathedral, as everybody knows, was torn down by the Stalinist regime which wanted to replace it with another symbol -- a symbol of Communist ideological fervor in the form of the Palace of Soviets with a huge sculpture of Lenin perched on top of it. For some reason, the palace was never built. For a long time its foundation was used as a swimming pool. The absence of the cathedral was an empty hole in the soul of Russia. Finally, the cathedral was rebuilt and became a symbol of a resurgent Christian Russia..
Similarly, it seems that the only way to claim moral victory over the enemies of the Untied States is to rebuild the original twin towers, taking into consideration the security concerns arising from the tragic experience of September 11th.
In this respect, the project of Roustam Nour deserves, as it seems to me, a very thorough consideration. "After familiarizing myself with the proposals put forward for rebuilding the site of the World Trade Center, I could not reconcile myself to the fact that not a single architectural group proposed the full reconstruction of ‘the twins,' - says Roustam Nour. "Since the architect of the original WTC towers, Minoru Yamasaki, is no longer alive, I took upon myself the liberty of developing further the original vision of the great architect."
Nour's project envisions preserving the "the twins" and even increasing their height by about 10-15 stories. It is technically feasible to build even 150-story buildings but, in his view, the taller buildings would "clash" with the overall architectural harmony of lower Manhattan and mar its skyline.
The major dilemma that confronts the architects who submitted their projects for rebuilding the WTC site is the correlation between the functionality of the buildings and their role as symbolic monuments to the victims of Sepember 11th. Some architects suggest discarding the functionality altogether and focusing exclusively on commemorating the tragic event. This doesn't seem to be realistic because lower Manhattan is an extremely valuable piece of real estate. Besides, having a memorial to the victims built right in the middle of Manhattan's business center would be a constant reminder to its residents of the turmoil and anguish that New York had to go through.
The best solution, therefore, seems to be some sort of a combination of the functional and the symbolic in the project.
Roustam Nour proposes not to rebuild the improved "twins" on the original site. That would be sacrilegious! Business center built on the bones on the victims of September 11th does not seem to be the right solution. That's why he proposes to rebuild them at a slightly different location.
It goes without saying that the new towers would have to be reenforced significantly. "There should be three sets of metal support structures inside each building, –says the artist, –and they should be connected with each other horizontally every 14-20 stories. The number of exterior support structures could be reduced in size by a fourth, or even a third, thereby permitting widening of the windows. Precise engineering calculations could be made by professionals."
And what if, God forbid, there is a repetition of the September 11th attacks? In the event of a disaster it should be possible to connect "the twins" by horizontal walkways or escalators at each floor or at least at some floors. In case of a disaster the occupants of the buildings should be able to pass through these walkways into a safer place and it should be possible to move the firefighting equipment through the same walkways. The "twin towers" will have to have emergency exits at many levels. When not in use, the emergency elevators could be kept underground.
That's how Roustam Nour envisions the business center. As for the memorial complex, the artist proposes to build two mirrored-glass pyramids within the perimeters of the former twin towers, each about ...... feet high. Pyramids will be connected by an underground tunnel. The space at the ground floor is to be used as a memorial for those who died in the attack. Possibly, access to it will be limited to the relatives of the victims. The second and third floors will be reminiscent of the arrangement inside the Guggenheim museum": two levels of walkways along the perimeters of the pyramids.
How the memorial museum will look inside should be left to the relatives of the victims, architects and city officials to decide. Roustam Nour would like to invite famous Russian artists, such as Ernst Neizvestny, Mikhail Shemyakin and Zurab Tseretely to participate in the project. He suggests that every year, on September 11th , laser lights be beamed into the sky from the tops of the pyramids. In the artist's view, the space between the pyramids and the towers could be ideal for some kind of a sculptural composition commemorating the victims of September 11th. He hopes that such a monument could be based on the famous photograph taken by Thomas E. Franklin that depicts three firefighters trying to raise the American flag over the ruins of the World Trade Center.
The whole site -- bordered by Church St. on the east, Liberty St. on the south and Vesey St. on the north, -- should be raised 15-25 feet above the current street level and would form a platform serving as a foundation for the towers, pyramids, monument to the firefighters, fountain, a hotel and a spacious park, as shown in the drawing. West St. will be left below the level of the platform and will connect the WTC to Winter Garden in the World Financial Center and Battery Park City.
A few words about the author of the project. Rousam Nour, an ethnic Tatar from Russia, studied fine arts and drawing in Leninogorsk, then continued his education in Moscow. Later he worked as a teacher of fine arts and drawing in a school. He arrived in New York City in 1993 and started working as a street artist. He was arrested at least 30 times by the police for selling in the street without a permit. After 1996, when the laws regulating street artists were somewhat relaxed, he was able to establish a successful business. According to his calculations, during the last 10 years he was able to sell more than 100,000 pieces of artwork prints with his original signature. He organized a team of artists that helped him make copies of his watercolors depicting the beautiful sights of New York City. Roustam Nour is in charge of a vast distribution network that sells his work on the streets. He filed and won several lawsuits against the pirates who were selling unauthorized copies of his artwork. In 2001 The New York Times published a long article about him and his creative and commercial success.
Realistically speaking, Roustam Nour hardly stands a chance of getting his project noticed by the decision-makers, let alone accepted and implemented. Partly, that's because he started his project too late. The Commission on the rebuilding of the site of the World Trade Center has already been working for a long time and is unlikely to accept new proposals at this stage of the process. However, Roustam is a very tenacious and persistent person. He is ready to knock on every door and hopes that his determination will sooner or later bring success.
Novoye Russkoye Slovo, January 28, 2003