It was created to represent world peace through trade at the financial capital of the world, and later stood as a symbol of resolve as responders dug through the rubble.
The Sphere, the iconic sculpture by Fritz Koenig, was dedicated in 1971 as it sat perched upon streaming waterfalls in the plaza at the World Trade Center. Thirty years later it lay in a pile of rubble, battered and torn yet miraculously only somewhat abridged of its former splendor.
The architect of the trade center, Minoru Yamasaki, wanted to mimic the Grand Mosque of Mecca and so commissioned this piece of art to stand at the center of his vision in the middle of the Austin J. Tobin Plaza.
“Yamasaki described his vision of the plaza as ‘a mecca, a great relief from the narrow streets and sidewalks of the surrounding Wall Street area.’ … Yamasaki replicated the plan of Mecca’s courtyard by creating a vast delineated square, isolated from the city’s bustle by low colonnaded structures and capped by two enormous, perfectly square towers – minarets, really. Yamasaki’s courtyard mimicked Mecca’s assemblage of holy sites – the Qa’ba (a cube) containing the sacred stone, what some believe is the burial site of Hagar and Ishmael and the holy spring – by including several sculptural features, including a fountain, and he anchored the composition in a radial circular pattern, similar to Mecca’s.”
Of course, the thousands upon thousands of those who walked by The Sphere didn’t think about any of that over those 30 years it sat silently watching over the plaza, nor did the thousands who searched for our friends and family in the rubble that surrounded it many years later.
It's difficult not to wonder if Bin Laden knew about the aspects of this particular architectural design and if he saw it as a form of blasphemy or, as has been reported, from his evil geo-political mindset to destroy the West; merely a target for his hate filled aggressions as a whole for all America stood for. I believe the latter more accurate, all things considered.
One could certainly draw a variety of allegoric, even conspiratorial theories that on the 11th of September, 2001, the Sphere, representing world peace, still stood, while Yamasaki’s Mecca lay in ruin. Brought down by a twisted extremist religious and geo-political world view whose terrorists trekked to and worshipped in Mecca, with Bin Laden himself being a native of Saudi Arabia and having made the hajj pilgrimage. Perhaps he was more than a bit prophetic about his own eventual fate without recognizing it. For in the end, he was the one who was the fallen Mecca, not the World Trade Center. He was the one most responsible for bringing about a hatred expressed towards the moderate as well as the extremist practitioners of Islam. He made the massive stride towards his religious goals to bring about the destruction of civilization as does the current extremists of Daesh (ISIS) want – including subjection of the masses, destruction of the West, and most importantly, and in conjunction with the aforementioned, their version of the apocalypse.
While the void at Ground Zero has been filled, now overflowing with new buildings, a memorial, and commerce, the Sphere will once again take its place as the emblem at the heart of what it was always meant to stand for – world peace. It is soon to finally return nearer to its original location, from its interim resting place in Battery Park, when it is reinstalled on Liberty Plaza near the newly rebuilt St. Nicholas Church. But Fritz Koenig won’t be there to see the day so many responders have wanted and petitioned for so long, because he died, age 92 on Wednesday. He won’t be there to see his artistic expression and legacy be less taken for granted. It won’t stand any longer as simply an interesting sculpture which thousands walk by barely noticing. For it has become the great symbol of resolve with the spirit he called for in having it be placed upright again in order that it would not be corrupted and properly represent all who perished then, and since, and those of us who remain – the 9/11 Family. Be at peace Fritz, and thank you for this simple, yet eloquent, piece of art which will ever remain in history, our symbol of strength. We’ll naturally continue our part in striving towards the resolve for peace that some would steal from us, and be ever reminded of that every time we reflect on the history of the place, and gaze upon the ‘spheral caryatide’.