This post has been updated.

Does the image below strike a nerve?

Twin apartment buildings designed by a Dutch architectural firm are seen in this undated computer illustration photo released by Yongsan Development Co. (Reuters)

This is the proposed design for two skyscrapers in Seoul, South Korea. But MVRDV, the Dutch firm that proposed the design, is the subject of vitriolic criticism. Americans see too much of a reflection of this image:

Hijacked United Airlines Flight 175 from Boston crashes into the south tower of the World Trade Center and explodes at 9:03 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2001 in New York City. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

That wasn’t MVRDV’s intention. The firm’s design statement described a “pixelated cloud” containing public gardens to connected the two structures. The cloud would also house a wellness center, conference center, swimming pools, restaurants and cafes.

The firm apologized for the design’s resemblance to the Twin Towers, saying that they did not see the similarities during their design process. “It is one of many projects in which MVRDV experiments with a raised city level to reinvent the often solitary typology of the skyscraper,” a statement on their site said. “We sincerely apologize to anyone whose feelings we have hurt, it was not our intention.”

Washington Post art and architecture critic Phil Kennicott responded to the design:

The controversy seems part of a larger cultural effort to make the events of September 11, 2001 somehow sacred, to use the meaning of the terrorist attack for larger, more overbearing cultural control. So now it is being deployed against contemporary architecture, not because there is anything inherently offensive in this design (which may or may not be an intentional reference to 9/11), but because the emotions generated by the attack have been co-opted by one part of the political and cultural spectrum.

Architects have long been exploring ways to turn buildings inside out, to peel away their external skin, to represent them as if melting or hurtling through space. The metaphor to “explode” a building might well be used as a positive architectural value, to open up space, break down formal strictures, allow multiple points of access. So even if the Dutch design firm, MVRDV intended a reference to 9/11, there’s no reason that reference should be read as mocking or ironic. It might easily be seen as an effort to freeze frame a traumatic event, in architectural form, and neutralize its shock and pain.

The apology does not mean the design will change. There’s been no word about changing the look — only that they were sorry for the resemblance. According to CBS, a South Korean business partner says construction will begin in 2013. Take a closer look at the design below.

(Associated Press)

(Associated Press)