"Rich Firms, Poor Ideas on Towers Site" is an interesting piece in the New York Times [requires (free) registration], in which Herbert Muschamp interrogates the process behind the rebuilding of the WTC site. He makes several interesting points, which surely have resonance for designers in general - debunking the myth of the omnipotent designer (aka the Fountainhead complex?); stressing the importance of context; and therefore the importance of testing the success of a design, as objectively as possible.
"The projects, however, that have reinvigorated the public's interest in architecture are predominantly the work of smaller firms, like those of Tod Williams and Billie Tsien; Christian de Portzamparc; Raimund Abraham; Renzo Piano; Jean Nouvel; and Rem Koolhaas. What is it, apart from talent, that distinguishes these offices from their corporate counterparts?
None of them subscribe to the myth of the omnicompetent designer. They are makers of objects, but more than that, they are connectors - humanistic thinkers who piece together areas of information that lie beyond the architect's actual expertise. They bring with them - or invent - the context of meaning in which their work should be judged.
The blueprint does not provide such a context, or encourage its creation. No cultural connections are forged. The principles could be used to describe an edge city anywhere on earth. There is no acknowledgment that other areas of expertise might be drawn upon before the design process begins: history, economics, philosophy, global politics � the entire range of disciplines on which any plausible interpretation of the World Trade Center tragedy must depend. But without a credible reading of 9/11, constructed from a global perspective, we will have no means of discriminating the value of whatever designs are put forth."