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Way Outside the Box

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But Calatrava’s more important role may simply be to embolden New York. Historically, immigrants have often brought with them an air of audacious optimism. They want to believe in the city and remake the world. They can still be romantic. There’s an old-world sweetness about Calatrava’s art—despite its rigorous geometry—that some New Yorkers may find corny. His inspiration for the station at ground zero, that image of a child releasing a bird, is sentimental but also timeless. (It wouldn’t have worried Matisse.) In any case, the city and its billionaires should take more chances with heightened feeling. They need to rediscover the New York of daring and ambition. When I asked Calatrava what he’d build in New York—if he could build anything at all—he said, “I would build a bridge.” Yes, that bridge to the 21st century.

Santiago Calatrava: Sculpture Into Architecture
Metropolitan Museum of Art.
October 18 through March 5.


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