Chance to Rebuild

By Rich Magda
September 16, 2004


On Sept. 10, 2001, Lower Manhattan was a new and prospering residential neighborhood. The next morning, Sept. 11, the mightiest architectural feats in America had been reduced by terrorists to heaps of material rubble, smoke, and fire.

In the three years since the attacks, citizens of New York City have mourned losses, gathered together for strength and watched as American troops infiltrated Afghanistan and Iraq for revenge.

After Sept. 11, a common notion in the city was to rebuild Ground Zero quickly to symbolize rebirth. Public opinion on the issue spanned the spectrum of possibilities from building nothing to recreating the Twin Towers.

When a stiff wind blew off the harbor, it stirred a blinding dust storm, according to a New York Times report. The idea of building nothing was not an option.

To rebuild the Towers, according to architectural critic Paul Goldberger, would be to repeat “the worst architectural mistake in our century.” Goldberger is the author of “Up from Zero,” a book that captures and comments on the rebuilding process of ground Zero.

Demand for new designs and ideas created conflict between Larry Silverstein, who has a 99-year lease on the land, the Port Authority, which owned the land before Silverstein, Gov. George Pataki and the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation that was created by Pataki and Rudolph Giuliani to assist those involved in the process.

The conflict was settled with a decision to let 4,000 New York City citizens vote on how to rebuild Ground Zero. The group concluded that the world’s finest architects should compete for the honor.

On Feb. 27, 2003, the final decision appointed Daniel Libeskind as the choice architect. Libeskind’s sketches included a 1,776-foot tall Freedom Tower, with a spire rising higher than the twin towers had. To memorialize the site, he planned to incorporate a slurry wall that survived the attacks of Sept. 11.

In a Sept. 9, 2004 interview on National Public Radio, Goldberger discussed a new conflict that is obstructing the reconstruction process, a debate between two architects; Libeskind, chosen by Pataki and the people, and David Childs, assigned by Silverstein to assist.

Libeskind’s Freedom Tower sketches envision a spire that would rise out of one side of the building, like the extended arm of the Statue of Liberty.

Childs had been playing with ideas since Sept. 11, 2001. Before the attacks, he had been hired to improve the Twin Towers. Childs planned to design a single “torqued, or twisted tower,” and he, “felt strongly that the spire should come from the center of the building,” according to Goldberg in the interview.

Goldberg reports that Libeskind won the contest, but that “in accepting his ideas, the people were accepting the idea of a tall tower, but not of his actual design.”

Childs was appointed by the landlord to design the tall tower.

Libeskind refuted, insisting that the people and the governor had chosen his work, so the right is his to turn sketches into design.

Libeskind and Childs each thought that they were designing the memorial skyscraper. In an effort of compromise, the architects were ordered to work together. “They were not pleased about it,” Goldberg said. “Their ideas are not necessarily the same.”

As Libeskind and Childs attempt to cooperate for a greater cause, Goldberg realizes that issues remain beyond stylistic architectural preferences, like the functionality of the design. Goldberg believes that Lower Manhattan, a promising residential neighborhood before the attacks, could be made “better still.”

“There is not much demand for office space in Lower Manhattan,” Goldberg said. “People want housing. The area was becoming a mixed-use neighborhood, and more of a place where people lived.”

Goldberg projects that the completion of the process will take at least 10 to 15 years.

“The new is what will serve us the best, to show the world on this piece of land which America was attacked, that we will not only build, but stay on the cutting edge of creativity.”

Posted to the web by Lori Iannella

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Rich Magda

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