40 of 41 people found the following review helpful
on March 30, 2002
Unlike many 9/11-related "rush-to-market" books, those responsible for this spectacular volume took their time, painstakingly endeavoring (my guess), over the course of more than six months, to create something "different," that would be well-received, that would offer readers more for less, without going overboard with sentimental excess.
Skinner's "World Trade Center" is a welcome surprise, not only because of its conscientious attention to detail, but also because of what its creators chose to present inside, especially its illustrations, which were culled from many sources nationwide. The result is an art-intensive product that is still comprehensive in scope about the history and cultural impact of lower Manhattan and the World Trade Center, from the 1940s to the present.
At first, the cover makes the book look like another "tribute," dispensible and repetitive, a postcard-type souvenir that might ultimately find its way into the "remainder" section of any bookstore.
But its contents are opulent and lavish, without sacrificing content devoted to the history and controversy that led to the World Trade Center's construction and destruction.
At every turn, you are reminded that the Twin Towers were dismissed, if not hated by many architectural critics, bereft of the affection or warmth reserved for other New York City landmarks such as the Empire State or Chrysler Buildings.
Chapters are devoted to the world of lower Manhattan before, during and after the World Trade Center, as well as the effect these Towers had or didn't have on the regional and national stage. There are humorous cultural references (and photos) associated from everything from thrill-seekers tight-roping across the towers or jumping from a parachute or climbing its mighty walls, to the buildings' numerous appearances in films such as "King Kong," "Independence Day," "Men in Black" and "Working Girl."
Skinner's text occasionally undercuts itself with histrionic and obvious declarations (e.g., as in the introduction, referring to the 9/11 attacks as being "psychopathic," etc.), previously expressed elsewhere, hence redundant to most readers.
However, when Skinner STICKS to history and restrains his subjective observations to the debate that led to the design, construction and political and economic atmosphere of the New York City of the 1960s and 1970s, the result is marvelous. This volume is dedicated to what the World Trade Center was before and after 9/11, with keen insight on the fact, for example, that the Twin Towers never reached its goal of being a world center for "trade," in spite of its name. Every page is graced with illustrations more likely to be found in a coffee-table book costing more $$$. The layout is subtle and understated, yet wonderfully creative, hence, made more dramatic. The photos, particularly the satellite shots of lower Manhattan before and after 9/11, are all magnificent. Three color fold-out sections enhance this volume, which are as high in quality as what you would find in a book published by National Geographic.
Among the greatest decisions made by the creators of this volume was to step away from excess verbiage in the final large section that records what actually happened on 9/11. Following a well-written and understated essay, page after page of incredible color photos re-visit the day. Simple captions, absent of editorializing, serve only as labels for readers.
The tremendous power and strength of this volume is enhanced, in my opinion, by the following: Because its publishers secured permission from many news sources, the most spectacular pictures are packed into one book and properly credited. The result -- from showing the jet slamming into the south tower, the collapse of both buildings, the facial reactions of onlookers, the rescue efforts by public safety officials, to the shot of President Bush putting a comforting hand on the back of Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's head -- is despite the fact we've seen these images before, it's gratifying to find them represented in a single sturdy volume that is, perhaps by design, shaped like one of the two towers.
With a few nagging exceptions when unneeded editorializing creeps into the text, "World Trade Center" is a "straight-ahead" book, easy at first glance to overlook. It's always a pleasing surprise to learn otherwise after you get past the cover.
In rare cases, as with "One Nation," the wonderful volume about 9/11 by the editors of Life Magazine, there are occasions when "speed" can work, as long as journalistic principles are embraced. Conversely, it's often said that the best things in life are those that take the longest to produce.
In the case of Peter Skinner's "World Trade Center," the publishers opted to take their time. As a result, the end product is one that zooms past other illustrated volumes about the events of 9/11, specific to New York City, hence, in my opinion, it deservedly earns a place in your permanent library.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on April 8, 2002
Encountering with this book at a bookstore, it was a true love at first sight. Since the book is deftly reviewed by David Kusumoto, there is nothing for me to add, except that what it makes most unique and makes it stand out among other similar books is its shape and the size of the book; 15" x 8". I call it a 'vertical' widescreen. This seems to be the only way to display the true impact of the twin skyscrapers. The color of the buildings , basking in the setting sun is glorious and breathtaking beyond description, and reminds me of the Golden Pavilion in Kyoto, Japan.
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on July 17, 2002
As a native New Yorker who formerly had a beautiful view of the World Trade Center, and now avoids looking at the painfully flat skyline every day, I have this fabulous volume to treasure instead.
While disappointed with the flood of tributes to the still unfathomable tragedy of 9/11, this book was a must have the moment I thumbed through for a quick cursory look. I was immediately impressed with all the gorgeous shots of the WTCs depicted in all the ways that I loved them. Shimmering in golden sunrise yellow, blinding in midday platinum steel, glowing in the ominously blue-violet dusk, and sparkling with the thousands of tiny lights that made the New York City skyline, the awesomely spectacular sight that so sadly, won't ever be the same.
The most wonderful thing about this book, is not only the terrific pictoral contents, with several posters included, but the informational text that accompanies it as well. If you are interested to know the complete history of the WTCs and New York City, you will see the city before the towers were built, how and by whom they were planned, the way they were built, when and why. Also covered, their effect on New York City, as well as their role in the media and Hollywood movies. Finally, you will get the brutally shocking photos of their horrible demise. Look no further for a truly complete tribute. Every single chapter goes into wonderful detail, and is accompanied by the most breathtaking photographic treasures ever seen, of these iconic masterpieces of lost architecture. Not only is this the absolute BEST book I've seen for anyone who wants to keep their memory of the WTCs alive forever, it's also one of the most reasonably priced. This volume offers a tremendous return for your dollar. It's all printed in sharp color, on thick gauge, glossy paper. There is not one page in here that will waste your time with filler. Author Pete Skinner, British born, but a longtime resident of Greenwich Village, had, like me, watched the birth of the World Trade Center, built and completed in 1973, and like me, watched it die. People all over the world felt the pain of this unprecedented loss, but those of us who were lucky enough to live among the Twin Towers for their retrospectively short lifespan, will treasure this book.
If you are looking for a book about the entire gamut of events that took place in New York, Washington DC, and Pennsylvania, you may not find all of what you're looking for here. However, if you are like me, a person who will forever mourn the loss of these twin icons of prestige and success that defined the great soaring spirit of New York City, as well as the tragic loss of many wonderful hard-working New Yorkers who loved to work at the World Trade Center once upon a better time, then you have found the perfect tribute to a symbol of New York that will remain, forever in the American heart.