'Cloud' Twin Towers: Design Insults 9/11 Victims, Critics Say

An architectural design has evoked a ghastly image in the eyes of some: the burning World Trade Center shortly before its collapse on 9/11.

Renderings of two linked towers slated to be built in Seoul, South Korea, have set off a firestorm because of the design's perceived resemblance to New York City's Twin Towers as they billowed smoke and spewed debris after hijacked jets crashed into them on Sept. 11, 2001. The mockup of the proposed high-rises, which the architectural firm MVRDV introduced Dec. 6th, bears the resemblance in the eyes of some because of the 10-story "pixelated cloud" that connects the two buildings, MSNBC reports..

MVRDV insists that the designs are in no way meant to portray the destroyed buildings. "MVRDV regrets deeply any connotations The Cloud project evokes regarding 9/11; it was not our intention," the Dutch company wrote on its Facebook page, which has drawn angry posts lambasting the designs.

But some, such as Jim Riches, a former deputy chief in the New York City Fired Department whose son perished in the attack, aren't buying it. "I think it's a total lie, and they have no respect for the people who died that day," Riches told The Daily News.

"THIS IS [APPALLING]!" writes one critic on the firm's Facebook page. "How dare you design such a [hideous] monument to our pain and loss."

Some critics outraged by the design have allegedly gone further -- with threatening emails and phone calls "calling us Al Qaeda lovers or worse," the firm asserts in an apologetic Facebook post.

MVRDV says in the post that the cumulus shape of the towers' bridge was designed on the basis of "parameters such as sunlight, outside spaces, living quality for inhabitants and the city" and is thematically consistent with some of the firm's other designs that aim to "reinvent the often solitary typology of the skyscraper." A review of MVRDV's website reveals that the firm does seem to have a history of integrating unconventional, cloud-like shapes into its work. With a hollowed-out block resting on top of two towers, their "Torino Floating Tower" is one example of a past design that resembles the "The Cloud" project.

Nonetheless, members of the firm may not be able to credibly claim that they were totally oblivious to the possibility that renderings could conjure images of 9/11 in the minds of some. The Weekly Standard reports that a spokesman for the firm, Jan Knikker, conceded in an interview to the Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad that the designs look like the blazing World Trade Center, saying, "I have to admit that we also thought of the 9/11 attacks."

The two towers are projected to open in 2015 and would be situated at the entrance of the $28 billion Yongsan "DreamHub," according to The Daily News. "DreamHub" is an enormous business, residential and cultural center planned for the site of a current U.S. military base. As it turns out, the master planner of the entire project is Daniel Libeskind, who planned the construction of the new World Trade Center in New York, according the Korean English-language newspaper, Korea JoongAng Daily.

A post by the Designboom e-zine about MVRDV's design says that its towers would be 260 and 300 meters tall, respectively. Express elevators would deposit visitors at the 14,000-square-foot cloud, which would contain a sky lounge, eateries and a conference center in addition to other recreational centers. In a stylistic touch that lightens the structure's appearance, the cubes comprising the cloud would be blanketed in gardens, decks and pools.

The outrage sparked by the tower designs could scuttle their construction, especially considering that the buildings are far from a done deal. The Korean development company that is paying for DreamHub said that the design is only one of 19 proposals, according to The Wall Street Journal, and that the winning submission will not be selected until next year, at the earliest.