A hundred times I have thought:
New York is a catastrophe,
and fifty times:
It is a beautiful catastrophe.
- Le Corbusier
This quote is incised in the pavement of Battery Park City's esplanade which was built atop landfill from the World Trade Center's excavation.
Early this year, I published a book called Divided We Stand, A Biography of New York's World Trade Center. The result of eight years of research, writing and revision, it also distilled the cumulative associations of my 50 years as a New Yorker and witness to the city's heroic and deeply flawed trajectory of development.
Guiding my approach was the idea that my book would not assume the mantle of a "definitive" work. Rather, my goal was to create a useful, well-written and documented book that would also serve as the basis for a much broader exercise in cultural history writing - one that would push beyond the scope of an individual author, in this case, me. Hence this Living Archive.
I have started the ball rolling by posting here a considerable amount of "apocryphal" material not to be found in the book. My hope is that this Archive will grow far beyond this nucleus - augmented and elaborated by its readers-contributors.
The idea of assembling the material found here owes much to the spirit of Walter Benjamin's "Arcades Project." But I acknowledge with humility that the World Trade Center is too big a story for anyone to tell alone. Like any complex, unfolding narrative, it must be collectively told.
Eric Darton, August 2000