Mellon Forum // Escape from Liberty Island: Lower Manhattan Against the World, 1973-2001

With Dara Orenstein and Aaron Shkuda
Mar 18, 2024, 12:00 pm1:30 pm
Betts, Zoom, and Princeton Livestream Channel 7


Event Description

Mellon Forum on the Urban Environment: Transforming Land / Making Property

Escape from Liberty Island: Lower Manhattan Against the World, 1973-2001

Dara Orenstein, George Washington University


Aaron Shkuda, Princeton- Mellon Initiative

This is a hybrid event. Attend in person at the School of Architecture, or register for the zoom webinar using the below link:


A view-only livestream is available on Media Central Channel 7:


What was the World Trade Center?

Should it be referred to in the lowercase, as a serialized spatial form that was invented to facilitate the decolonization of the dollar at the urban scale, starting in New Orleans right after World War II? Or should it be understood according to the vernacular definition of the term, “the” World Trade Center, uppercase, which in the United States, at least, has denoted the Twin Towers that officially opened in New York City in the pivotal year of 1973, and that over the next generation would come to stand as an archetype of a new world order, and even a new period of the history of capitalism?

This talk will explain why it is important to consider both stylings of the term in assessing the eventual fate of the Twin Towers. With the filmmaker John Carpenter as a muse, on the scene in 1981, it will propose that the rise of the World Trade Center in the banker David Rockefeller’s “Lower Manhattan” be apprehended not as an investment in New York, but as an escape from New York.


Special funding for this session is provided by the Humanities Council. 

The Spring 2024 Mellon Forum on the Urban Environment is kindly sponsored by the Mellon Foundation and the Princeton Center for Collaborative History, Departments of Art & Archaeology, English, and Politics, HMEI, PIIRS, SPIA, and the School of Architecture.

Mellon Forum events are free and open to the public. Lunch is provided while supplies last. Recorded sessions are posted on Princeton Media Central.