Alexandra Lange
Architecture & design critic

Fear of Fun: A History of Modernist Design for Children

LAST AUGUST, I WAS WALKING the Brooklyn Heights Promenade with my then three-year-old son, when he paused in front of a plaque showing the Manhattan skyline as it was, with the twin towers intact. Someone had hung an inexpensive wreath around the plaque that caught his attention. What’s this for? he asked. I could have said, I don’t know, but I realized the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 was weeks away. I wanted him to hear something about it from me first, not a classmate or a teacher.

It is in memory of those towers, I said. There was a terrible fire, and they fell down. Were there people in them? he asked. Yes, I said. Did they die? Yes, I said. Why didn’t they send the fire trucks? They did send the fire trucks, but they couldn’t help. The fire was too big. He was quiet for a moment, and I questioned my parental judgment in telling him even this limited account.

Then he said: Superman should have come to help the firemen. Superman could have saved the people. And he kept walking.