The developers of the Park 51 Islamic center have released the first architectural renderings of the proposed building whose downtown Manhattan location — two blocks from the site of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center — has triggered frenzied controversy and what some term "Islamophobia." No sooner had the mosque's designs, by Lebanon-based SOMA Architects, been unveiled than critics began looking for visual parallels. Here are four things the new building is said to resemble:
Superman's Fortress of Solitude
The 16-story building has been compared by some to the Man of Steel's "crystalline headquarters" as depicted in comic books, reports Nick Allen in the London Daily Telegraph. Questionable, says Charlie Jane Anders at IO9: The renderings certainly do look more futuristic than expected, but do they really resemble "the sort of structure where you'd expect to find ... a hologram of Marlon Brando"?
A tumbling twin towers
While others describe the building as Islamic-influenced modern design, Don Surber at the Charleston, Va., Daily Mail says he sees "a crumbling twin towers" in the mosque's proposed elevations: "It is, um, striking." The designs unveiled by architects yesterday, says Surber, are "not a message of peace. This is its opposite."
A curious nod to Judaism
From our point of view, say Isabel Vincent and Melissa Klein in the New York Post, the web-like structure that fronts this religious building "appears to incorporate the Jewish symbol" of the Star of David. In response to similar observations, reports the London Daily Mail, "[t]he developers took to their Twitter account to clarify that the [six-pointed] hexagram is a powerful symbol in Islam and Christianity as well as Judaism."
A splendid beehive
Judging by all the fuss over Park 51, says Ed Pilkington in the London Guardian, you'd expect an "Islamic citadel right on top of Ground Zero with 'sponsored by Al Qaeda' written on its front." But the proposed building, "broken up into a lattice of interlocking geometric shapes," actually resembles a "glistening honeycomb." This "decidedly upbeat" building looks "more festive than threatening," adds the newspaper's architecture critic Jonathan Glancey.