Winning Mural Relegated Unexceptional

In another mystifying development at Ground Zero, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) announced that a mural for the construction fence at the World Trade Center, designed by Sage & Coombe Architects, will instead be installed at Louise Nevelson Plaza in Lower Manhattan later this spring. According to Robin Pogrebin in her article, “Planned Mural Will Not Be Installed at Ground Zero,” The New York Times Art Beat, 01.08.10, despite winning a competition hosted by the NYC Department of Transportation (DOT) and PANYNJ, the entry was deemed “not extraordinary enough” for the site.

At a site where construction barricades block access, entry to the subway and Path trains is an ever-changing maze, and a Subway restaurant will reach the top of the Freedom Tower before anything else, I wonder what is worthy enough for a construction fence? For a firm like Sage & Coombe (which has not responded publicly to the announcement), recipients of a 2007 AIANY Design Award for Interiors and part of the Mayor’s Design + Construction Excellence Program in 2007, having its winning entry pushed aside and relocated to a nondescript plaza is a major insult to the quality of its work.

Perhaps what the DOT and PANYNJ have planned is something truly spectacular, but for some reason I find it hard to believe that every entry to the competition was inadequate, and even more so that the winning entry did not deserve the prize.