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The New York Times

World Trade Center Master Plan

New York Times rendering of downtown skyline from New Jersey

New York Times rendering of downtown skyline scene from New Jersey. Tall tower is proposed new communications tower just south of New York Stock Exchange. Twin towers are on eastern side of World Trade Center site. Other detailed buildings are proposed to be built on deck over West Street.

By Carter B. Horsley

In perhaps the greatest example of architectural jouralism in history, today's edition (September 8, 2002) of The New York Times Magazine contained its own "Masters' Plan" for the redevelopment of the World Trade Center site that was coordinated by the newspaper's architecture critic Herbert Muschamps.

The proposal involved designs prepared for The New York Times by many famous architects and designers such as Henry N. Cobb, Peter Eisenman, Charles Gwathmey, Zaha Hadid, Steven Holl, Rem Koolhaas and his Office for Metropolitan Architecture, Maya Lin, Richard Meier, and Rafael Viñoly - all architects long associated with New York City.

While one might muster an equally imposing list of New York architects not on this "team" such as Kohn Pedersen Fox, Cesar Pelli, Philip Johnson, and Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo & Associates, and an even more intriguing list of national architects such as Eric Owen Moss, Antoine Predock, and Arquitectonica, and an very intriguing list of foreign architects such as Shin Takematsu, Arato Isozaki, Richard Rogers, Norman Foster, Renzo Piano and others, the talent assembled by The New York Times well served its intent of offering a meaningful alternative to the "official" six plans presented recently by the Lower Manhattan Redevelopment Corporation (see The City Review article). Those plans were widely criticized as unexciting and too beholden to the "legal" requirements advanced by the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey based on its lease with Larry Silverstein, the developer, that the authority maintained mandated the recreation of the same amount of commercial and retail space on the site as existed prior to the terrorist attacks of September 9, 2001 (see The City Review article).

In its "Thinking Big" preface, the Times article states that "The plan builds on some ideas that are already in circulation and is meant only as an offering to the public conversation," adding that "Much of it is based on very real ideas of whatis required and how it can be financed. Some of it is daringly fanciful. Many features remain hotly contested....But if there is one issue on which there is broad and passionate consensus, it is that in a city like New York, just getting back to normal is not good enough. The plan that follows is an incement to the city to think big."

The subhead for Mr. Muschamp's article correctly proclaims: "Now is the time for New York to express its ambition through architecture and reclaim its place as a visionary city."

Mr. Muschamp explained that a group including architects Meier, Holl, Eisenman, and Gwathmey and Guy Nordenson, a structural engineer began to discuss their dissatisfaction with plans for the site and with the city's planning process and the Times asked them to pursue their study, noting that "almost immediately, they decided to look beyond ground zero and reimagine a scheme for the entirety of Lower Manhattan."

"The team began by adopting a strategy developed by Frederick Schwartz, architect of the Staten Island Ferry Terminal at the southern tip of Manhattan," Mr. Muschamp wrote, adding that "Schwartz, who worked on the Westway highway project in the 1970's and 80's, had long recommended burying a segment of West Street, a six-lane highway that divides Battery Park City from the rest of Lower Manhattan."

Site plan legendSite plan of proposals published by The New York Times

Site elements of plans superimposed by The New York Times on aerial photo of Lower Manhattan, which shows Battery Park City at the top and Battery Park at the left. Yellow rectangles indicate proposed new buildings on platform over West Street. Two orange circles indicate planned new twin towers, one of which is off and south of the existing World Trade Center Site. The red circle indicates site of the New York Stock Exchange where a component of the plan suggests erecting a communications tower that would be the world's tallest. (Vertical white and gray sites at left in above illustration are the fold of The New York Times Magazine from which this image was scanned.)

By tunneling this segment, Schwartz argued that the new "land" would amount to about 16 acres of developable property and a new West Street "development corridor" could accommodate much of the former space demolished in the terrorist attack and "heal" a "gash in the cityscape that had long obstructed the integration of Battery Park City with the financial district."

The proposal envisions that most of the World Trade Center's commercial space could be rebuilt in tall buildings "on or adjacent to ground zero, closer to transportation" and that most of the West Street "corridor" could be devoted to new housing and that the new "land" might be worth at least $2 billion and could be sold to developers to help pay for the cost of building the new "platform" over West Street.

Aerial rendering from the north of proposal published in The New York Times Magazine Sept. 8, 2002

This rendering in the September 8, 2002 edition of The New York Times Magazine shows proposal as seen from the air looking south toward Battery Park looking down a redeveloped West Street with Battery Park City on the right and the finance district on the left. Rendering only partially shows proposed new communications tower, the world's tallest at the center right top.

The "proposal" printed in The New York Times Magazine shows two "torqued" twin towers at the southwest corner of ground zero. The article provided the following commentary:

"The architects who came together to reimagine Lower Manhattan reached a consensus on many aspects of this plan. The question of replacing the two towers, however, was more difficult. Some recoiled at the idea; others were enchanted by the prospect of crowning Manhattan's skyline wiht bold new skyscrapers. What is presented here is one idea that emerged for new towers. Resembling candlesticks, the buildings would be location at the intesection of Liberty Street and Church Street, straddling the southeast corner of ground zero. One tower would be located inside the site, while the other would sit just outside it. Such a placement would not only allow the twin-tower footprints to remain; it would also let ground zero become more than a memorial site. These towers would be roughly the height of their predecessors, though thinner and torqued to suggest resilience - as if they were made of a material that, if bumped, would simply absorb the shock. Would these towers be a new World Trade Center? Not necessarily. In addition to office space, they could house a mixture of cultural, retail and housing units. Another conception would accommodate today's heightened safety concerns; the towers could stand simply as monuments, empty for for a museum on the ground floor."

Aerial perspective of Ground Zero plans in proposal by The New York Times

Aerial perspective rendering of the ground zero section of the proposals presented in the September 8, 2002 edition of The New York Times Magazine shows planned new "twisted" twin towers from aerial perspective at right, and the World Financial Center at Battery Park City at the left with unusually shaped new office building on platform over West Street at left center, a new school designed by Richard Meier, center top and the proposed Transit Hub designed by Rafael Viñoly, a low-rise structure, at center right just to the south of a Museum/Theater facility designed by Steven Holl.

Neither of the above two renderings indicate the redevelopment of 7 World Trade Center, the office building erected just to the north of the World Trade Center by Larry Silverstein, which was also demolished in the terrorist attack. The article does not focus on Mr. Silverstein's building although its plan does not appear to rule out its rebuilding or to be substantially impacted by any such plan by Mr. Silverstein who, of course, leased the World Trade Center site from the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey and is certain to be a major player in any redevelopment scheme.

While the article's specifically notes that the presented new "twin towers" is only "one idea," their forms appear in four illustrations. Another illustration in the article showed "another notion for a tower comes from Guy Nordenson, a structural engineer" and its caption maintains that "His is not a formal design but an idea for how a skyscraped could be torqued to make it structurally sound, even at very great heights." None of the other renderings with the tall towers have credit lines to indicate the creator of the designs, although presumably the architects of the other components illustrated supplied their own renderings.

Transportation hub looking north

Transportation "hub" cutaway designed by Rafael Viñoly looking north

"Rejecting the classical Grand Central Terminal notion of the 'big room,' Rafael Viñoly designed a transportation hub that distributes the circulation space in a series of switchbacks and visually celebrates the industrial grandeur of converging rail systems," wrote Mr. Muschamps. The article stated that "connecting subways, trains and buses to Lower Manhattan, the Mass Transit Interchange would feature curved pedestrian paths that undulate between the surface and the underground, seamlessly united two separate realms of the city. Wavelike ramps lined with shops and cafes would intersect at different elevations throughout the complex; moving walkways and escalators would connect pedestrians to various subway lines. The canopied terminal, which at its peak could rise 10 stories, would have a glass facade, allowing views from a neighboring plaza into New York's underworld. The basic mechanics of urban movement would become a spectacle in their own right."

Trio of "crumpled" office towers designed by Peter Eisenman

Peter Eisenman designed three office towers that would rise on the platform over West Street between ground zero and the Wintergarden at the World Financial Center at Battery Park City

In his article, Mr. Muschamps wrote that Peter Eisenman's three office towers, shown above, "can be viewed by as a formalist exercise..., but they are also a critique of the Cartesian grid. The history of ideas is the context for architecture today."

For about generation, Mr. Eisenman has been America's most intellectual, and often obstruse, albeit most brilliant, architect. He has been recently superceded, of course, by Frank Gehry, whose sinuous design for the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, shot him to the top of the world's most influential architects. Mr. Gehry is noticeably absent in this "group, perhaps because his design for a new midtown office for The New York Times was passed over in favor of a design by Renzo Piano and the firm of Fox & Fowle (see The City Review article).

While Mr. Eisenman's office tower designs may be "a critique of the Cartesian grid," the caption for the illustration offers a more illuminating and incisive commentary on them:

"The crunched profiles of these three office towers suggest partly collapsed structures. In so doing, the buildings would echo the devastation wrought on 9/11 and offer a striking memorial to the fallen towers; at the same time, they would provide three million square feet of new office space. 'This memorial,' Eisenman says, 'could be appreciated from anywhere in the city.' Although the buildings' rippled facades would flow into the concrete as if they were melting, the interiors would resemble those of any normal office building."

This "drunken" or at least "staggering" trio of towers is an extremely attractive rendering and one wonders if it is a bit deceptive for the middle portions appear clad in light-blue glass white the rest of the towers are silver or gray, so one is a bit unclear about the reference to flowing into concrete. One also suspects that if built they would not, unfortunately, be appreciated from anywhere in the city," is "appreciated" means "visible." These remarks, however, are not meant to be flippant for Eisenman's concept and design is very, very brilliant - so much so that one wishes they had been applied to the twin "torqued" towers represented in the article.

Office tower designed by Rem Koolhaas, Dan Wood and Joshua Ramus

Office tower designed by Rem Koolhaas, Dan Wood and Joshua Ramus of the Office of Metropolitan Architecture

Another design for office structures along the new West Street "corridor" in the plan was by Rem Koolhaas, Dan Wood and Joshua Ramus of the Office of Metropolitan Architecture, shown above. The caption for the design of this 60-story office tower in the article said it would:

"offer an inversion of the typical skyscaper form: the building would grow wider at the top, giving extra space to the more desirable and expensive upper floors. Struts between each 'leg' of the building and its neighbors would serve the dual purpose of connecting them and supporting the lower, thinner and less sturdy floors. designed for 24-hour use, the building would also contain housing, apartments, hotel rooms and retail and cultural space; the roof would be a green area."

In his article, Mr. Muschamps wrote that "Rem Koolhaas's project satirizes New York's nostalgic obsession with the Art Deco skyscraper by turning three of them on their heads."

Mr. Koolhaas is most famous for his book, "Delirious New York," in which he depicts the Chrysler and Empire State Buildings in bed together"

His design here, however, does not seem to have any Art Deco flourishes and is a quite modern, strong and interesting plan that if anything conjures the bulging top of Ernest Flagg's great Singer Building that was near this site but sadly demolished many years ago and also the stilts of Citicorp Center.

Drawing by Maya Lin shows proposed memorial island located in Hudson River west of the North Cove Marina at the World Financial Center with tree-lined promenade to ground zero

The "Times" proposal notes that a "memorial should rise out of extended public debate" and that therefore its "team" decided not to offer a formal proposal for a memorial. The Times Magazine, however, asked for a sketchbook from Maya Lin, who designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. She submitted three proposals, one of which was illustrated in the article and is reproduced above.

Broadcast tower adjacent to the New York Stock Exchange

Plan for a site directly south of and adjacent to the New York Stock Exchange was designed by Guy Nordenson and Henry N. Cobb calls for the erection of "Seven Stems," a broadcast tower that would be the world's tallest. Rendering at the right did not show full height of the proposed tower.

Mr. Muschamps notes in his article that "though the team did not fully endorse this idea, we present David Rockwell's rendering of a giant cybertheater over the New York Stock Exchange, which he calls the Hall of Risk." "It is designed to educate the public abut the social trade-offs caused by modernization," he continued. A caption in the article for two illustrations of the Hall of Risk said that the concept was developed by Paul Ryan, a video artist and teacher, and Jean Gardner, a professor at the Parsons School of Design, and that it would be located on "what is now the New York Stock Exchange trading floor....[and] Giant pillars, cantilevered ever so slightly to suggest precariousness, would support a giant stadium overhead."

The illustrations of this "hall" are hard to decipher and the article does not mention the status of the exchange's planned expansion and move, plans that have recently changed.

"Adjacent to it," Mr. Muchamps continued in his article, "Guy Nordenson and Henry Cobb have designed an elegant broadcast tower that they fancifully imagine as the tallest structure in the world." "Rather than shying away from ambition, this project embraces it with all its might," he wrote. Mr. Cobb is a founding partner in the architectural firm of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners.

The article provides the following commentary about the proposed broadcast tower:

"Seven Stems, a telecommunications and broadcast tower, would rise just south of the New York Stock Exchange Building and act as a replacement for the antennas that used to sit atop the north tower of the World Trade Center. Seven cylindrical steel columns, each 14 feet in diameter and set at different angles, wold converge as they rose to 2,100 feet, becoming the tallest man-made structure inthe world. Visitors could take steps to observation decks of varying heights."

Not only did the main rendering for this proposal cut off the top of the proposed broadcast tower, but the caption is even more telescoped and seems to suggest that visitors would not have elevators to get to the observatories, a luxury that Parisians had in the original Eiffel Tower more than a century ago. Even more perplexing is why should such a tower be squeezed onto such a small, midblock site and while one of the "torqued" twin towers across town at ground zero could not have the antenna and no mention is made of competing plans to build a similar tower in New Jersey.

If built at all, why shouldn't the world's tallest new structure be built part of the ground zero site? New York should have the world's tallest building, or two, or three, but part of the glory of the Eiffel Tower or the Space Needle in Seattle is that there is space at the bottom where one can gaze upward to appreciate the "achievement" especially if one is somewhat dizzy with heights. The Twin Towers had a very large plaza.

The "Times" master plan proposal is extremely laudable in making the case that something significant, ambitious and exciting should arise out of the tragedy of the terrorist attacks.

It is correct in strongly promoting twin towers at the southeast corner of ground zero, the creation of the West Street platform, and Maya Lin's memorial island. The office tower plans of Peter Eisenman and Rem Koolhaas are very intriguing as are many of the other components, although the Broadcast Tower and Hall of Risk do not seem to have been well thought out or relevant.

The same issue of The New York Times Magazine has a very lenghty and fine article by James Glanz and Eric Lipon, "The Height of Ambition - In the epic story of how the World Trade Towers arose, their fall was foretold." In addition, more information is available on the Internet at


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