A Dutch newspaper triggered the controversy with this image and article about the project design on Thursday.
A Dutch architectural firm says its design for a South Korean housing complex is simply meant to convey the feeling of being in the clouds, but others see something they'd rather not remember: the collapse of the World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11, 2011.
"A real media storm has started and we receive threatening emails and calls of angry people calling us Al Qaeda lovers or worse," the firm, MVRDV, posted on its Facebook page on Friday after a Dutch newspaper, the Algemeen Dagblad, published a front-page architectural rendition of the project and the headline: "Inspired by Twin Towers?"
"MVRDV regrets deeply any connotations The Cloud project evokes regarding 9/11, it was not our intention," MVRDV added. "The Cloud was designed based on parameters such as sunlight, outside spaces, living quality for inhabitants and the city. It is one of many projects in which MVRDV experiments with a raised city level to reinvent the often solitary typology of the skyscraper.
The cloud structure is used to connect the two towers with corridors that also serve as meeting places. The complex is set to open in Seoul in 2015.
MVRDV says this image best reflects the cloud inspiration for its Cloud project.
The towers are part of a bigger project, called the Yongsan Dream Hub, whose designer is Daniel Libeskind -- the master plan architect for reconstruction at New York's Ground Zero.
"It was not our intention to create an image resembling the attacks nor did we see the resemblance during the design process," the firm stated. "We sincerely apologize to anyone whose feelings we have hurt, the design was not meant to provoke this."
The firm said a better visualization of the project is an image, seen here at left, showing a more abstract feel.
A retired New York Fire Department deputy chief whose son was killed on 9/11 said he didn’t believe the architects.
"I think it’s a total lie and they have no respect for the people who died that day," Jim Riches told the New York Daily News. "They’re crossing a line.
MVRDV on Wednesday posted this view of The Cloud project on its Facebook page.
"I think they’re trying to sensationalize it. It’s a cheap way to get publicity."
On MVRDV's Facebook page, some people rallied to its defense.
"9/11 was horrible and an atrocity, we all agree," said one person. "However, this does not mean that nobody can build two similar rectangle shaped buildings (I hear those are quite the fad in architecture) anymore."
And MVRDV elaborated on its earlier apology with a post after several dozen comments were made on its Facebook page.
"Dear all, honestly we did not see the connection in 3 months of design process ... We take these feelings quite serious but we never intended to design a project looking like an exploding building, why on earth would we? This is quite shocking in this discussion that people think we might have done this on purpose. No!"