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The New York Magazine

Proposals for the World Trade Center Site

"The beautiful, the poetic, the sublime."

By Carter B. Horsley

One day after The New York Times Magazine published its own "Masters' Plan" September 8, 2002 for the redevelopment of the World Trade Center site the September 16, 2002 edition of New York magazine was published with seven proposals it had elicited from prominent architects. The New York magazine article, "Rising to Greatness" was written by its architecture critic, Joseph Giovannini, who presumably had "curated" its group of proposals just as Herbert Muschamps, the architecture critic of The New York Times, had "curated" the plans published in The Times.

The decision of both publications to sponsor such plans is extremely laudatory as American journalism has too often underplayed the importance of architecture and these articles were undertaken with the intent of convincing decision-makers in the redevelopment that the plans presented in the summer of 2002 by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (see The City Review article) were inadequate.

Two architects, Zaha Hadid and Peter Eisenman, participated in both "ventures." While the "Masters' Plan" of The Times (see The City Review article) was a team effort, the New York magazine presentation had seven architects offer their own individual redevelopment schemes.

In his article, Mr. Giovannini wrote that the public attending the presentation at the Javits Convention Center in July of the six plans prepared for the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation expressed "a collective demand for urban and architectural greatness, scaled to the magnitude of 9/11." "Overt banality would not do; nor would the dry calculus of square-footage, excessive infrastructure, and rote planning....The proposals, generated by a single New York firm with no record of work on this level, simply lacked vision....New Yorkers need buildings at the World Trade Center that will make us stop, look and feel. Buildings that will make us turn our gaze up and understand a larger order of aspiration. This is not the time to settle for real-estate deals dressed up with expensive curtain walls but the moment to prescribe curative doses of the beautiful, the poetic, the sublime. New York invited six practicing architects and one practicing visionary to design proposals for the site....Even as the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation and, presumably, the Port Authority regroup and open the process to more architects globally, the plans that follow set an imaginative and practicable standard for what New Yorkers, Americans, and the rest of the world hope the site might be....These designs encourage interconnectedness between the buildings themselves, the underground infrastructure, and the surrounding city. Some connect directly and daringly to the waterfront or bring water to the site. All cultivate the three-dimensionality of Manhattan, where the ground plane is not always earth but a surface with many layers built above and below....Above all, the proposals are, in different ways, heroic and evocative....These are structures that return a sense of awe to the city, and solidity too."

The seven proposals were presented in the article in the following order but with three illustrations for each only one of which is reproduced in this article:

Zaha Hadid

Zaha Hadid Architects

London, England

Proposal by Zaha Hadid

The article described this proposal as follows:

"Showing a defiant confidence in Manhattan and in the very tall building, Zaha Hadid proposes a a skyscraper that is higher, bigger, and more complex than the original World Trade Center towers. The London architect, noted for inventing forms that encourage social interaction in and around a building, evokes the original towers with a double set of sinuous twins, the thinner pair for residential use and the thicker for offices. But the new buildings are no longer extruded form square footprints like tubes. The four towers bend and merge at various points, the floor levels swelling and receding along the vertical axis to accommodate different uses. Hadid and her asosciate, Patrick Schumacher, reinvent the skyscraper as a building type, operating on the principle of connecting rather than isolating floors and people, and varying spaces rather than repeating them identically. They create a mille-feuille landscape whose folded and layered topography, comprising spaces dedicated to shopping, transport, and culture, are interwoven with passages linking the development, as in a complex root steystem. In tribute both to the dead and to the World Trade Center, the architects cut deeply into the towers' footprints, creating hollow tubes that become haunting voids."

Thom Mayne


Santa Monica, California

Proposal by Thom Mayne

The article described this proposal as follows:

"The complex proposed by Thom Mayne constitutes a memorial to the victims of 9/11, but an inhabited memorial that commemmorates the tragedy by treating the entire site as an affirmation of the living city - from underground transportation systems to offices to residences. Mayne turns the skyscraper on its side, creating undulating, intersecting horizontal tubes that acommodate commercial space. A skeletal, 1,300-foot-tall communications tower wrapped in metal scrim sets the site in the skyline. An extension of the tower descends below grade, folding back and forth like a Jacob's ladder, facing an urban canyon that opens the site and exposes its underground life, with layered subway and rail systems and shopping concourses. The complex, with a spur that reaches out to the Hudson, forms a collar around the World Trade Center perimeter, defining a park or outdoor room that encircles the footprints of the original towers. The park rises to the south, above underground commercial and recreational spaces. One of the footprints is designed as a plaza isolated in its own tranquility, a pocket of reflection. An opening above the second footprint serves as an oculus leading to an underground memorial space honoring the dead."

William Pedersen

Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates

New York, New York

Proposal by William Pedersen

The article described this proposal as follows:

"William Pedersen proposes a continuous rooftop memorial promenade starting at the Statue of Liberty ferry landing and rising steadily above new residential blocks and residential buildings. The sky promenade forms a populous wall spiraling around the original World Trade Center site that culminates in a 2,001-foot tower overlooking the footprints of the original towers, which will be transformed into reflecting pools. The upper reaches of the tower itself will be equipped with banks of wind turbines and solar panels, and the sky-memorial promenade will have a stream of Hudson River water purified and filtered as it courses down to the harbor, serving the building along the way and, at least symbolically, cleansing the site. The wall of buildings is broken by the surrounding street grid into segments, each created by different design teams. The scheme accommodates 10 million square feet for offices, apartments, stores, and cultural institutions, including a memorial museum. Pedersen, whose firm has built extensively in New York and abroad, including projects that are among the tallest in the world, compares the sky promenade to the exhilarating experience of walking on the pedestrian decks of New York's suspension bridges."

Peter Eisenman

Eisenman Architects

New York, New York

Proposal of Peter Eisenman

The article described this proposal as follows:

"Peter Eisenman, a New York architectural theorist known for radically challenging the design and planning of buildings and cities, embarks on the World Trade Center plan with a metaphor: If architecture is a mirror of society, the destruction of the Twin Towers on September 11 shattered the narcissistic reflection. He proposes transforming that idea into a permanent structure. The footprints of the towers remain as visible traces within a complex that is simultaneously building, memorial, and landscape. High-rise towers ring the site, but the imprint of the lost skyscrapers generates a turbulent flow outward. (An alternative interpretation is that the towers are flowing back, or receding toward, their point of origin.) The complex embodies the notion of simultaneous construction and destruction. Architecturally, the towers are surprisingly conventional inside, with standard elevator cores and floor plates. They present familar facades to the surrounding city. Where they fold into the ground, however, they create a rich variety of flowing spaces that can accommodate many uses, including an opera house and the New School University (Eisenman worked on the scheme with New School president Bob Kerrey, who acted as client)."

Wolf Prix

Coop Himmelb(l)au

Vienna, Austria

Proposal of Wolf Prix

The article described this proposal as follows:

"Wolf Prix, a radical Viennese architect with experience in large-scale museums and high-density public housing, plays with New York's identity as a vertical city by proposing a megastructure piled 100 stories high. Three mixed-use towers placed in a triangle act as pylons supporting a vast bowl of apartments, conceived for what Prix calls 'Skyliving.' Like the upper half of an hourglass, the bowl hovers above a dome around and inside which spirals a promenade. The interior ring overlooks the footprints of the World Trade Center towers, protected within a grand vaulted space dedicated as a memorial void. A huge platform several stories high rings the dome, housing cultural facilities, malls, hotels, and public offices. The platform, with an edge that curls like a cloud, floats above the ground plane, where the street grid is restored and outdoor space is left open for public use. A pedestrian bridge starting near Broadway crosses the site and becomes a ferry port on the Hudson. Prix and his partner, Helmut Swiczinsky, dedicate several floors within each high-rise for sky lobbies - areas where occupants can shop and socialize. Residential and office space mix in each tower."

Carlos Zapata

Wood + Zapata

Boston, Massachusetts

Proposal of Carlos Zapata

The article described this proposal as follows:

"A dynamically sculpted 130-story tower forms the iconic center of a 12-million-square-foot mixed-use complex that includes 4 million square feet of residential units. Carlos Zapata depresses West Street from Chambers Street in the north to Battery Park in the south to create a narrow 27-acre park with a flowing waterway fed by the Hudson. Roughly following the original Manhattan waterfront, the new river widens near the Trade Center site and borders the Twin Towers' footprints as well as the edge of the new skyscraper. Zapata retains both footprints and tops them with a glass roof and a net of cables to create light wells for the subterranean levels of the site, densely occupied with stores and a new PATH station. Pedestrian bridges crossing the footprints connect the city grid on the east to the new memorial park. Parts of Zapata's structures hover over edges of the footprints. The architect reconnects Greenwich Street with a curved avenue that frees up flour blocks to the east to be designed by other architects and developers, to ensure heterogeneity in the project."

Lebbeus Woods

Lebbeus Woods

New York, New York

Proposal by Lebbeus Woods

The article described this proposal as follows:

"Woods, an architecture visionary who lives, draws and teaches just blocks from the Trade Center site, proposes a structure perpetually under construction, a 'World Center' symbolizing regeneration and continual change. It is the tallest building in the world and will, as it grows, always be the tallest. It is a project with a precise beginning - September 11, 2001 - but no ending. The main feature of the 39 million-square-foot structure is a vertical memorial park called the Ascent, dedicated to reflecting and building on the experience of 9/11 and after. There are four ways to make the Ascent. The Pilgrimage is for the devout and involves a monthlong traversal of a difficult vertical path through a series of Stations. The Quest consists of a weeklong series of climbs up near-vertical faces, ledges, resting places, and camps. On the Trip, vacationers will spend two or three days among a series of platforms, lifts, escalators, interactive displays, hotels, restaurants, vistas, and educatonal entertainment. The half-day Tour consists of a rapid elevator ride to the summit of the Park, pausing at commemorative displays. Atop the Ascent is the Summit, a community of pilgrims, climbers, vacationers, tourists, and World Center workers. They will join scholars, students, artists, philosophers, and others who have devoted themselves to the study of 9/11. The community crowns the World Center with a continuously evolving network of interior and exterior spaces and serves as window into past, prsent, and future worlds, and as a place where arguments can be informed by new perspectives and possiblities."

Collectively, these proposals are flamboyant and intriguing, but almost whimsical.

Ms. Hadid's plan is the simplest and most striking, but her sinously twisted "pairs" - much more organic than her customary angularity - look a bit like cool and shapely hosiery, and while they are more attractive than the bulky "torqued" towers suggested by The New York Times they are a bit too cute. Interestingly, none of the proposals in both publications take as their design theme the powerful images of the shard fragments of the Twin Towers that have become so indelible.

Mr. Mayne's plan is interesting for its swooping "collar," geometric layout and the elegance of his tall "scrim" tower, but the spur to the Hudson through the World Financial Center seems unnecessary and the plan almost seems more focused on underground activity than above-ground structures.

Mr. Pedersen's proposal is quite daring in its rising promenade on West Street and almost brings back memories of one of Robert Moses's plans to building a new bridge from the tip of Manhattan to Brooklyn. It is quite an ingenious plan if one concentrates on the notion of being able to take elevated walks through the city, but even though he breaks this new wall up to match up with the existing street grid except for the connecting skywalks it still would end up as a strong visual barrier separating Battery Park City, one of the city's great joys, from the rest of Lower Manhattan and the plan does not indicate how one might get off the promenade in the middle. His single tall tower is straight-forward and compelling. Much taller than either of the Twin Towers, it gives back to the city the distinction of having the world's tallest building and perhaps a single great tower rather than twin towers is not a bad idea. The inclusion of wind turbines and solar panels is not clearly presented although it is interesting that several of the New York magazine proposals make strong efforts to consider environmental issues.

Mr. Eisenman's proposal is a variation of the plan he presented in The Times only here the three towers are the centerpiece and appear to "flow" into one another whereas in The Times they were separate and presumably smaller office towers on the proposed new "West Street corridor." In his plan for The Times, Eisenman "crumpled" the middle sections of his buildings in a very dramatic and very poetic evoking of the collapse of the Twin Towers. Here, the "crumpling" is at the base of the towers. It would appear that the merging of the crumpled bases would create rather a rough terrain in the center of his New York composition, and his Times plan is better, although it was only a small component of the plan in The Times.

Mr. Prix's proposal conjures up the great "Plug-In" cities of Peter Cook when megastructures looked like the wave of the future in the 1960s. His vision of an gigantic "bowl of apartments" suspended between three 100-story skyscrapers, which themselves jut, would make the producers of the great skyscraper sets in the film "Metropolis" sit up and take notice. Certainly, this plan is the most futuristic and imaginative but one wonders whether today's engineers are up to the challenge. Presumably the bowl is some form of mammoth loving cup. His plan of jutting skyscrapers, however, looks just fine without the "bowl."

Mr. Zapata's asymmetrical and monumental 130-story tower is quite handsome and striking as is his scheme to have it surrounded by a group of much lower buildings with rakishly slanted rooflines that appear to spiral around the tower. The idea of depressing West Street to provide new parkland and a "new" river that conforms to a former shoreline is intriguing.

Mr. Woods's proposal in principle has great logic: a building that will grow and always be the tallest. His plan for The Ascent would really be a "destination," but one does wonder about the practicality of mountaineers and vacationers camping out on its facades and how the residents and workers in this huge skyscraper would enjoy constant construction. Mr. Woods's presentation is without question the most artistic, which is not surprising since he is one of the greatest architectural draftsmen in history, a present-day Piranesi, whose conceptions are often bewildering but always impressive as are the less complicated but brilliant drawings of Ms. Hadid.

While the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation has taken a great deal of criticism for its first six plans, it and the proposals presented in New York magazine and The New York Times Magazine have now set a very good visual foundation with which to begin to shape real plans and all three deserve the public's thanks.

What should be built?

The final plan should probably definitely provide for the tunneling of West Street south of Chambers Street to reconnect, or undivorce, Battery Park City with the rest of Lower Manhattan and create considerable new "land" for parks and for development. Any plan should probably also preserve the "footprints" of the Twin Towers perhaps as reflecting pools, perhaps sunken, with canted, windowed sides as skylights to underground concourses. The notion of "twin" towers is not inviolate and perhaps there should be one very great, shimmering tower of élan and elegance, with observatories, surrounding by some of Mr. Eisenman's "crumpled" towers and certainly there should be considerable cultural facilities and a good mix of commercial and residential development. The tower should be as far "inland," that is to the east of the side as possible to recenter the great skyline of Downtown. As much open space as possible should be between the World Financial Center's great, and just rebuilt, Wintergarden, and the major new buildings on the World Trade Center site. Such a space should perhaps be slanted downwards toward the river so that it could also serve as a great amphitheater for major events.


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