In the best of all
cities, if not worlds, the design for a redeveloped World Trade
Center site would include a memorial for the almost three thousand
people lost in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks that demolished
the center's twin towers, a decked-over West Street to reunite
Battery Park City with the rest of Lower Manhattan, an expanded
transportation terminal that would better unite Downtown with
Midtown and the rest of the Metropolitan region, and a stunning
new architectural project that would reassert Manhattan's international
The redevelopment should also afford the city the opportunity
to significantly bolster the downtown community's cultural assets
with the inclusion of some important institutions such as new
homes for the Museum of the City of New York and the New York
Fortunately, the site is large enough to accommodate all of these
components as well as meeting the contractual needs of the Port
Authority of New York & New Jersey to replace the 11 million
square feet of commercial and retail space that had existed on
A suggestion by Gov. Pataki that the "footprints" of
the twin towers not be built upon is too restrictive, however,
and should be ignored, especially if the Port Authority's insistence
on replacing all the previously built space cannot be altered.
A major problem with the original twin tower design was that their
placement at the western edge of the site tilted the rather symmetrical
skyline of Lower Manhattan and the tallest buildings in any new
proposal should be placed at the eastern edge of the site.
Proposals to restore the traditional street pattern that had been
disrupted by the World Trade Center should be ignored as Lower
Manhattan does not have, nor require, a traditional grid pattern
and that is one of its charms and is far too restrictive for the
site's redevelopment. Context is one thing but one cannot roll
back history and ignore the existence of Battery Park City and,
in particular, the World Financial Center.
For decades, the city's summer cultural center was Lewisohn Stadium
at the City College of New York in upper Manhattan, which unfortunately
was demolished to make way a generation ago for an academic megastructure.
The stadium was an athletic field for City College that was also
a 25,000-person, colonnaded amphitheater. It should be recreated,
in principle, at the World Trade Center Site facing the great
Wintergarden of the World Financial Center, the city's most glorious
interior space. It can serve as part of the memorial for those
lost in the calamity and its benches can be engraved with the
names of those who were lost and the colonnade can be created
in the style of the bent great steel façade of the World
Trade Center. The city needs such a performing arts open-air venue
and it would ease the environmental pressures on concerts in Central
Park as well as attracting more people downtown and also provide
continual celebratory memorials for those lost.
Several of the proposed redevelopment schemes try to squeeze the
great amount of developed space onto the site with a cluster of
50 to 60 story office towers, each of which, if bulky enough,
could have about 1.5- to 2-million square feet of space, whereas
each of the twin towers contained about 4 million square feet
of space. Such a cluster of office towers would occupy a very
large portion of the site, seriously constraining design potential
for something special, something magnificent, something significant
and something stunning and something that would recognizable on
The skyline of Lower Manhattan prior to the erection of the very
bulky, albeit sleek, One Chase Manhattan Plaza in 1961 was the
most romantic and inspirational in the world. The World Trade
Center overpowered that skyline completely and rather contemptuously,
but its gleaming facades and its twin towers were undeniably forceful
and often beautiful from afar.
What is needed, therefore, is a new major tower, the world's tallest,
containing perhaps 6 million square feet, and a two smaller but
also major towers of about 2.5 million square feet each, one of
which could conceivably house new quarters for the New York Stock
Exchange, which has been contemplating expansion. New facilities
for the New York City Opera and the Museum of the City of New
York could be also be accommodated in the bases of these two smaller
Highest design priority should be given to the impact of the plan
on the skyline, secondly to the memorial, thirdly to the interface
with Battery Park City/World Financial Center, fourthly to the
transportation and retail issues, and fifthly to the cultural
These design issues, of course, must be delicately interwoven
with economic considerations and realities. The World Trade Center
had a tremendous impact on the local real estate market when it
was built and it was not entirely benign at the start. The downtown
office market at the moment is weak and there is not demand now
to fill up an additional 11 million square feet if it were immediately
available, but real estate markets historically run in cycles
and projects of this scale take years to complete and eventually
demand will rise again. The July 15, 2002 issue of Crain's
New York said that Lower Manhattan had a vacancy rate of about
19 percent. There likely are some tenants who would prefer not
to be in very famous and exposed skyscrapers in the aftermath
of the terrorist attacks. (In July, 2002, The New York Post
reported that the owners of Citicorp Center, one of midtown's
tallest and most distinctive skyscrapers, had decided to turn
off the nighttime illumination of that tower.) Clearly, however,
the general consensus after the attacks was that the city's and
the nation's resolve was to be uncowed by the attacks.
While there is undeniably less financial risk in putting up several
smaller towers than one or a few very big ones, such considerations
are short-sighted: New York City without the Empire State Building,
or Rockefeller Center, or the Woolworth Building would just be
another Sao Paolo. The quality of architecture always makes a
difference and great projects make a difference. A city cannot
be designed by insurance adjusters, or accountants, or lawyers.
Similarly, short-term gains may not always be the best or most
profitable long-term solution. A cluttered, uninspired redevelopment
of the site is not in the best interests of the city, nor is it
an appropriate memorial. Those who perished in this disaster and
the city and the world at large deserve better.
The twin towers of light that briefly on the site were memorable
and that concept should be incorporated into any new scheme. One
of the greatest visual images in the aftermath of the tragedy
was the bent remains of the base of one of the towers and one
of the more imaginative ideas that was advanced was that a tower
on the site should have a very tall and empty superstructure and
these two ideas could well be incorporated into the design and
beacons of light could emanate from two of the new towers.
Proposals to deck over West Street and to create an L.I. R.R.
express train from Jamaica, Queens to the site have met with some
opposition, and are each estimated to cost more than $1 billion.
Crain's NY reported on July 15, 2002 that the Metropolitan
Transportation Authority, which runs the L.I.R.R., is opposed
to the new train link and "would rather spend the federal
funds promised for downtown to improve the South Ferry subway
station and create a new downtown transit hub." Crain's
NY also indicated that "transit advocates are afraid
that either project would take money away from the major proposals
that were on the MTA agenda before Sept. 11: connecting the L.I.R.R.
to Grand Central Terminal, known as the East Side Access, and
building a Second Avenue subway."
The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation
released six "concept plans" for the redevelopment of
the World Trade Center terrorist attack site on July 16, 2002.
The development corporation has an excellent website at http://www.renewnyc.com
that includes detailed information on the plans with descriptions,
site plans, scale models, 3D renderings, skyline elevations and
animations that permit viewing the models from any angle. The
following pictures are from its website. Each plan is briefly
described below above scale model pictures and skyline views,
followed by a critique, in italics, of each plan.
About a week after the plans were formally
released, a public meeting was held at the Javits Convention Center
and attended by about 4,500 persons, most of whom were reported
to be dissatisfied with most of the proposals, but in favor of
decking over West Street to create a grand promenade. On July
26, Gov. George E. Pataki told The New York Times that
the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey should perhaps
look beyond the World Trade Center site downtown for more flexibility
in planning the redevelopment and dealing with its legal issues
to rebuild the same amount of space. (7/28/02)
calls for an 8-acre plaza with a memorial/cultural building on
the western edge with a 79-story tower, two 67-story towers and
two 62-story towers. It would also reclaim 100 feet of West Street
reclaimed at grade for open space and a museum facility. It would
also tunnel west Street from Battery Park to Vesey Street creating
five acres of new property on a grand promenade over the submerged
roadway. The tallest tower would have a 1,500-ft.-high "skyline
element." Greenwich Street would be extended through the
site and Fulton and Cortlandt Streets would be extended partially
into the site. This scheme was designed by Cooper Robertson
& Partners for Brookfield Properites, the owners of the World
Financial Center at Battery Park City.
scheme would not build upon the footprint of the twin towers.
It would also place the tallest tower in the northwest corner
of the site close to Battery Park City, a plan that continues
the skewer the symmetry of Lower Manhattan as did the Twin Towers.
The four other major towers would be aligned along the eastern
edge of the site and would have slightly angled plans to broaden
tenant vistas. The phalanx of these four towers would be somewhat
similar to the cluster of tall towers on the west side of the
Avenue of the Americas known as Rockefeller Center West. The model
indicates that the facades of the tallest building are slightly
slanted and topped with a very high spire.
creates a 10-acre square framed by 10-story buildings with rooftop
gardens and continuous skywalks. It would also acquire four city
blocks on the south side of the site to create a "new cultural
district." It would also extend Greenwich Street through
the site and have a Liberty Street "green corridor"
from Broadway to the waterfront. It would have a 80-story tower,
two 70-story towers and one 56-story tower and the tallest tower
would have a 1,500-ft.-high "skyline element" similar
to the Memorial Plaza scheme. The tallest tower is placed on the
eastern edge of the city, closer to the center of Lower Manhattan
and the other tall buildings have more spacing between them than
in the Memorial Plaza scheme. The tallest tower is shown as cylindrical
in the presentation although it is not clear that this scheme
mandates such a plan. This scheme creates and/or acquires 13 acres
of "new property" for the redevelopment for a total
of 24.1 acres of public space (including streets and promenades).
It would also tunnel West Street from Battery Park to Chambers
Street. This scheme does not build over the footprint of the Twin
Towers and the model seems to indicate that the footprint might
be pools. This scheme was designed by Beyer Blinder Belle.
scheme's placement of the tallest tower closer to the center of
Lower Manhattan helps restore some symmetry to the downtown skyline
and the spacing of the other towers is more open but the heights
of the towers are not varied enough to make the tallest tower
prominent enough and the tallest tower should probably be higher
and the two-72-story buildings should be of slightly different
heights to add more visual interest. This scheme suffers from
two serious flaws: the 10-story structures surrounding the main
public space are too constrictive and "castle-like,"
although the notion of roof gardens and skywalks is excellent.
More serious, however, is the extension of Greenwich Street through
the site. Lower Manhattan has no street grid tradition like Midtown
and this notion of continuing streets was adopted in the design
guidelines for Battery Park City by Cooper-Eckstut & Associates
and was a reaction against previous "megastructure"
plans and misguided, although Battery Park City is very successful
urbanistically. By continuing Greenwich Street through the site,
this scheme breaks up the formality of such a large, "walled"
space and is unnecessary.
creates a 5-acre, triangular open space with an 85-story tower
with a 1500-ft.-high "skyline element," a 61-story tower
and four 59-story towers. This plan also extends Greenwich Street
through the site and would have an elevated pedestrian deck over
West Street to the Winter Garden at the World Financial Center
in Battery Park City. It also calls for potential residential
development south of Liberty Street. This scheme was designed
by Beyer Blinder Belle.
scheme places the tallest tower at the eastern edge of the site
but its towers are close to one another and one is directly in
front of the planned redevelopment by Larry Silverstein of 7 World
Trade Center. This plan appears to have a pavilion on part of
the Twin Towers' footprint and does not fully cover over the automobile
traffic on West Street. A cultural pavilion is squeezed close
to the narrow part of the "triangle" and the overall
plan here has less open space than the other schemes. The two
"small" structures in the large open space presumably
were conceived to give independent identity to potential "cultural"
institutions that might move to the site, but that makes their
design even more important than the towers for they would be under
intense focus and if not up to the quality of brilliant architecture
such as Daniel Liekeskind's Jewish Museum in Berlin or Frank Gehry's
Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, could result in a design disaster.
Such facilities could be incorporated into major mixed-use towers
as demonstrated by the AOL-Time Warner Center at One Columbus
Center now under construction at Columbus Circle. The question
of whether there should be free-standing buildings in the center
of the major public open space at this site is important as they
detract from whatever "formal" memorial eventually is
chosen. Moreover, how much of the site should be open is not an
easy or obvious decision. There is no need for parks on Madison
Avenue because Central Park is one block away at Fifth Avenue.
The point here is that Battery Park City has a splendid esplanade
and a great North Cove marina at the great Winter Garden at the
World Financial Center. Decking over West Street can create a
great deal of important new park/public space and could ease pressures
for a huge plaza in the center of the World Trade Center site.
Clearly, a major public space is needed in the center of the site,
which leaves the question about the footprints of the Twin Towers.
The footprints are very large and could suffice approximately
for the memorial and open space freeing up more space for towers.
creates a 4-acre open space with an 80-story tower with a 1,500-ft.-high
"skyline element, two 66-story towers and two 50-story towers.
Greenwich Street would be extended through the site and Fulton
Street extended through it partially. The tallest tower would
be placed at the eastern edge and two of the smaller towers would
have angled plans and be very close to Larry Silverstein's 7 World
Trade Center redevelopment on the north side of the site. The
tallest building has slanted facades in this model. This scheme
was designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill for Larry Silverstein.
tower in this scheme has a tall empty superstructure, an idea
that was suggested by David Childs of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.
The notion of a sculptural top conjures the compelling image of
the fractured, broken and bent facade of the collapsed Twin Towers,
but the slanted facades, reminscent of the Transamerica Tower
in San Francisco are not in keeping with the gleaming rectilinearity
of the Twin Towers.
creates a memorial site within a 6-acre park partially situated
on a deck over West Street with two 72-story towers and three
45-story towers. One of the towers would have a 1,500-ft.-high
"skyline element." It also calls for extending Greenwich
Street through the site and extending Fulton and Cortlandt Streets
to the World Financial Center. A bypass tunnel would run on West
Street from Albany to Vesey Streets with local traffic at the
surface. The plan requires the acquisition of par tof the plaza
of the Deutsche Bank Building and the parking lot at Cedar and
West Streets. The model shows a very slender, obelisk-like tower
in the center of the major open space, presumably a memorial,
and the tallest tower is isolated on the eastern edge of the site.
This scheme was designed by Peterson/Littenberg Architecture
& Urban Design for the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation.
scheme moves the tallest tower close to center of Lower Manhattan
and has appropriately placed the major open space on a deck over
West Street closest to the World Financial Center. The tallest
tower is a slab that runs perpendicularly to the next two two
tallest towers but it is also to the south of them. The large
open space over West Street is well planned, although the "obelisk"
tower in it is not particularly impressive or meaningful, at least
from the model.
creates a large oval park on a deck over West Street as well as
a smaller memorial site to the east with two 63-story towers and
four 32-story towers and cultural and memorial uses on the western
portion of the site. It also calls for 19.4 acres of new property
and a grand promenade over the submerged lanes of West Street.
This model also indicates a very tall obelisk in the center of
the "oval" park and its two tallest towers would have
1,500-ft.-high skyline elements. This scheme was designed by
Peterson/Littenberg Architecture & Urban Design for the Lower
Manhattan Development Corporation.
one of the World Trade Center's Twin Towers had a very tall antenna,
but both of the tallest towers here would have one. The notion
of having twin towers is sensible and the siting of the major
towers has a nice symmetry, although once again Larry Silverstein's
7 World Trade Center gets severely slightly as in virtually all
these proposals. This proposal is the most elegant of the group
although the two tallest towers are bulky and not very graceful.
The oval park really does not relate to the context, but that
is not necessarily bad and the emphasis on making a Grand Promenade
down West Street as well as opening up the site to the impressive
World Financial Center and Winter Garden at Battery Park City
is the right approach. Probably only one of the 1,500-ft.-high
"skyline elements" are necessary, which would permit
one of the towers to be taller, which would be important.
Schemes 5 and 6 are on the right track in the
siting of the major towers and the main open space on a deck over
West Street. An argument can be made for having "twin towers"
as part of the plan, but these plans basically are limited to
big but not very tall, as in "world's tallest," structures.
Why shouldn't New York have the world's tallest building? The
immediate answer is that it is expensive and that the downtown
office market doesn't need it now. Well, one will not get this
size site, which is appropriate for such a project, again.
In its lead editorial July 17, 2002, The
New York Times described these six plans as "dreary,
leaden proposals that fall far short of what New York City - and
the world - expect to see rise at ground zero." The editorial
went on to maintain that "The public will never be satisfied
with any redevelopment that contains as much commercial space
as the site did before Sept. 11," adding that "Despite
all the talk about a downtown that would be alive 24 hours a day
with cultural institutions, entertainment and residential developments,
these features, which make an urban area live and breathe, are
missing." That same edition of The New York Times
carried an appraisal of the plans by the newspaper's architecture
critic, Herbert Muschamp, who argued that "the plans have
little to recommend them." "Thus far, ...[the Lower
Manhattan Development Corporation] has demonstrated little besides
a breathtaking determination to think small. Don't come looking
for ideas that reflect the historic magnitude of last year's catastrophe."
The notion that the site cannot have as much
development as previously existed is preposterous, at least in
theory. The economic reality is that the opportunity to significantly
improve Lower Manhattan with greatly improved transit hubs and
a decking over of West Street can most likely only be afforded
by a maximum redevelopment. The problem with maximum redevelopment,
especially by the private sector, is timing. It is true that the
scale of what is proposed would overwhelm and severely impact
the downtown real estate market now and for a few years at least,
but the benefits of decking over West Street and really important
transit improvements would be worth it.
Anyone who has walked through Lower Manhattan
knows that it is glorious but also knows that it needs more attractions.
The Museum of the City of New York has a great building on Museum
Mile on Upper Fifth Avenue and while it would be a fine addition
to downtown it is an unnecessary move. What Lower Manhattan and
the city really need is the gargantuan proposed Frank Gehry-designed
museum on the East River south of the South Street Seaport that
the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum wants to build (see The
City Review article). Why not have a new museum of capitalism
and another of trade and another of technology?
As the lead editorial in The New York Post
July 17, 2002, stated, "It's a start." The Lower Manhattan
Development Corporation's website is awesome, especially the panoramic
movies of each "plan," and its "resources"
that contains many links to civic groups that have done a lot
of work already in thinking about what should be done at the site,
such as Rebuild Downtown Our Town (R.Dot) at http://www.architect.org/lower_manhattan/white_paper/whitepaper.html,
New York New Visions A Coalition for the Rebuilding of Lower Manhattan
at http://nynv.aiga.org and Civic Alliance To Rebuild Downtown
New York at http://www.civic-alliance.org.
The Municipal Art Society
of New York has gathered ideas from many workshops and is holding
an exhibition of some of them at the Urban Center at 451 Madison
Avenue from July 17 to October 10, 2002. Its website is http://www.mas.org and it has information on about 18,000 ideas
that were collected in 230 public workshops between March and
May, 2002, of what to do at the site.
What really matters is the quality of the architecture
of whatever is built and these massing and site plans must not
be looked at in a design vacuum (see The
City Review article on a call for an international design competition).
In early August, 2002, city officials proposed
that the city sell the Port Authority the land under JFK and LaGuardia
airports in exchange for the World Trade Center site as a means
of getting around the authority's insistence on building the same
amount of built space as existed before the terrorist attacks
on the site. Another proposal being considered was to expand possible
redevelopment sites near the World Trade Center location. (8/06/02)
In mid-August, 2002, in reaction to widespread
negative criticism, planning officials for the site indicated
that they would invite more architects to submit designs. (8/17/02)