Search results for "9/11 museum"

Placeholder Alt Text

Tracking the Origins of MVRDV’s Cloud
Urban design historian Grahame Shane weighs in on the controversial project tracing MVRDV’s explosive imagery to its source in research. When Ole Scheeren departed from OMA Beijing with the MahaNakhon Bangkok tower to found his own office in 2010, he had the idea to connect tower and urban village, marking a key moment in a very Dutch delirium that moved beyond OMA's CCTV tower. In the Bangkok tower the developer’s website claims this skyscraper "melds with the city by gradually 'dissolving' the mass as it moves vertically between ground and sky." MVRDV pursued this same research and logic in their Cloud twin tower development in Libeskind's masterplan for the ex-US base in downtown Seoul. The firm had earlier developed the Sky Village project in Copenhagen in 2008, similar in concept to the MahaNakon project with its spiral upwards. Indeed, this spiral had long been a concern of Ken Yeang, the Malaysian architect in his "Bioclimatic" Malaysian skyscraper projects of the 1990's. MVRDV pursued this research in their 2011 Vertical Village show in Taipei, Taiwan, that opened at the same time as the announcement of the Cloud. Given MVRDV's devotion to data mining and layering, it is probable that they followed the logic of the delirious Dutch research that believes you can collage anything beside anything else in a pragmatic, post-modern method of assemblage. This line of research descends from Koolhaas' appreciation of the Downtown Athletic Club in Manhattan in Delirious New York (1978). MVRDV's Hannover Expo Pavilion of 2000 demonstrated this technique, as did their project for the Metacity/Datatown exhibit of the same year. All interrelationships are then either pragmatic or better yet random. Then there is the fiction in a scheme like the CCTV, MahaNakhon, or the Cloud that no one person controls the emergent "free" assembly. Yet in Beijing or Bangkok the designers repressed the village-like interior organizations within the building mega-form, allowing a surface marking only, breaking the building surface as a pixilation in the MahaNakhon. The Cloud design represented a step further in this logic, as it projects a so-called three-dimensional vertical village between the two towers. It would seem the excitement of the creation of an urban village half way up two skyscrapers blinded MVRDV to the very obvious 9/11 image the design might provoke. Why was MVRDV so excited? There was already an Asian mega-structural tradition of platforms between towers and even the idea of vertical villages as in Hiroshi Hara's 1988 theories about urban scale in 3-D. Hara completed the Osaka Umeda Skygarden demonstration project in 1993. This tradition continued in the work of Chinese architects such as the Shenzhen based Urbanus group with their Urban Village and skyhook research of 2003-2004. Why was the Cloud breakthrough so important for MVRDV? The design maintained the tower surfaces but burst out of the mega-form to introduce a three-dimensional, cuboid platform with terraces and stepped rooms inside a grid structure showing trees and shrubbery, a veritable hanging garden. Anyone who has visited Bangkok and eaten on the three-dimensional rooftop terraces, could recognize the appeal of this structure. But here its form was also that of a rationalized Brazilian favela or hill town perched above Rio or São Paolo, echoing Safdie's Montreal Habitat (1967). The Vertical Village show asked whether one can hybridize the top-down modernist skyscraper and the forms of the self-build bottom-up favela to make a new "vertical urban village." Oliver Wainright writing for Domus magazine in October 2011 described the sequence of the exhibition that began with an analysis of existing urban villages , drawn in Atelier Bow Wow-style linear axonometrics with calculations of their density and Floor Area Ratio (FAR), proceeding via a corridor of images mined from the web using the terms "vertical village" to a contrasting display of massive, modern building projects for housing slabs and blocks that repress individuality in the search for cheap mass housing. Wainright described how the positive qualities of informal urban villages are outlined in one gallery as an "Urban Community Quality Wheel," which led to other rooms where visitors could use "Housemaker" and "Village Maker" software to adjust the parameters of a vertical urban village design. Wainright wrote that "tweaking settings from typology to aspect, hours of sunlight to distance from neighbors, the Grasshopper script then projects each house into the Rhino model, from where you can spin your clustered cloud of vertical dwellings around to your heart's content—and then share it on Facebook." The Cloud project with its favela-like bridge between two towers emerged from this research. MVRDV released the images without seeing the connection to the 9/11 twin towers, later issuing an apology. How could these otherwise savvy media operators have been so blind? Was it naïvete? Or a planned headline-grabbing publicity stunt? This blindness and emotional disconnection is interesting. Did MVRDV think that the design somehow incorporated the bottom-up built logic of the invisible favelas and shanties in their Cloud as it enveloped the two towers? Did MVRDV hope to signify the one billion slum dwellers here as the global system stresses out? Was their exceptional blindness the result of the uncanny return of the repressed masses in the outlying urban villages and favelas? Why do we need urban villages now in skyscrapers, in Clouds or in museums? Koolhaas and OMA have proposed the "Museum as City" for the Beijing National Arts Museum (2011) with horizontal "Arts Villages" held between "streets" and its vertical "Arts Lantern." What is the symbolism of the village here? Is it time to reverse the mega-scale of the Bubble Years and start over with urban villages? D. Grahame Shane teaches Graduate Urban Design at Columbia University and undergraduate students at The Cooper Union in New York. He also lectures for the Bartlett School of Architecture in London and at the Polytechnic in Milan. He is the author of Recombinant Urbanism: Conceptual Modeling in Architecture, Urban Design and City Theory (John Wiley & Sons, 2005).
Placeholder Alt Text

Slideshow> WTC Memorial at Night
Last Friday, AN went to the 9/11 Memorial, without a press pass, an official tour guide, or a hard hat. We went as a neighbor and experienced the place as any other visitor might. First, we attempted to get our ticket online. After checking the availability on Tuesday, we dithered, and by Wednesday online tickets were gone. But at the temporary exhibition space on Liberty Street, and a manager told us that a $20 ticket to the museum would get us into the memorial without reservations. After skipping the exhibition, we went through a series of checkpoints akin to international travel at JFK. The experience was a sobering reminder of one of the many aftereffects resulting from the attacks. Everything metal had to be removed and placed into an x-ray machine, but shoes did not have to be taken off. The staff at the metal detectors were stern and efficient. The line moved swiftly. At the following two or three additional checkpoints, administrators became friendlier. On entering the plaza, the public was set free. Watching the crowd interact with the space was almost as intriguing as memorial itself. Boy scout troops scampered, parents called out, as the crowd headed toward the South Pool where they clustered for a first glimpse. The recreational mood dissipated as the crowd dispersed and began to walk around the pool. The scale began to take root and voices lowered. By the time they reached Snøhetta's pavilion, more than a few visitors seemed disoriented. Several gazed through the glass at original World Trade columns and wondered aloud if this was in fact where the towers once stood. Others explained that the pools were the footprints. Again, the crowd regrouped and conversed, before separating and drifting off to the next pool. The light on the original column was in fact among the warmest light on the plaza. The the pool's lighting felt as cool as the water itself--stark but not sterile. The lamppost columns spread throughout the plaza in slim vertical gestures, so that the temporary incandescent  washing the World Trade columns provided an oddly warm punctuation to the entire site.
Placeholder Alt Text

WTC Update> POPS on the Periphery
It's been a while since we did the once around the super block that is the World Trade Center site. We held off on WTC Updates until the Tenth Anniversary news fest subsided. Now that all eyes are on the Zuccotti Park and Occupy Wall Street, we figured it'd be a good time to take another walkabout. From an urban planning standpoint, the Privately Owned Public Space (POPS) status of Zuccotti Park has stirred up quite a bit of interest. As the 9/11 Memorial opened only last month—and remains a highly controlled space—the only way to navigate around the site is to walk through a series of interior and exterior POPS. Right now Occupy Wall Street's takeover of the Brookfield-owned park is getting the lion's share of attention, but elsewhere there are little known gatherings in other POPS around Lower Manhattan that happen every day.
Placeholder Alt Text

Five-Year Reunion
The Morgan Library & Museum.
Michel Denancc

Grand openings come and go, and the buildings that once occasioned so much hoopla soon enough slide into the rank and file of the working city. Whether they become landmarks of achievement or emblems of unrealized potential cannot easily be known at first. The editors of AN talk to owners and architects of four celebrated efforts to see what stands out at least five years on.

The rebuilding of the 52-story 7 World Trade Center helped shape the masterplan for the adjacent site.
David Sundberg / ESTO

7 World Trade Center
Silverstein Properties

Just one month after the 9/11 attacks, and while New Yorkers were still reeling, developer Larry Silverstein and SOM began planning the rebuilding of 7 World Trade Center. With a Con-Ed substation that supplied much of Lower Manhattan including the Stock Exchange located in the base, rebuilding Seven was never really in question.

How to rebuild was. In their earliest discussions, SOM helped convince Silverstein to keep Greenwich Street open, which laid the groundwork for the site’s reintegration into the grid of Lower Manhattan. “It was the first chess piece move in what would eventually become the masterplan,” said T.J. Gottesdiener, a managing partner at SOM. By opting to reopen Greenwich Street, Silverstein gave up over 200,000 square feet of leasable space, according to Gottesdiener. “It was a moment for Larry to prove himself,” he said. “When you think about the building, the Jenny Holzer installation in the lobby, the Ken Smith park, the Jeff Koons outside, people were really surprised. It was a sign that things were going to be done well,” he said. “We were hoping it would be an instant classic.”

Left to right: A monumental art installation by Jenny Holzer fills the lobby; The skin on the base reflects ambient light by day, coming alive at night with LEDs.

The architects also argue that the project was instrumental in the formation of LEED standards for speculative office buildings. “There were standards for owner occupied buildings, but we wanted to certify for core and shell,” he said. SOM worked with the United States Green Building Council to develop standards for core and shell certification, with Silverstein to write a guidebook for the interior build out of the tower.

Five years ago, the building’s highly energy efficient curtain wall was, and still is, one of its most distinctive architectural elements. The result of design ambitions, the surface is as clear and crystalline as SOM could get it given the limitations of glass manufacturing at the time, while also accommodating the 13.5-foot floor-to-ceiling height prized in class-A office space. At the time, glass could only be fabricated at 12.5-foot lengths. Thus the resulting façade is highly articulated thanks to a 1.5-foot tall black micro corrugated steel spandrel between floors used together with single sheets of low-e glass, which the architects accented with a two inch horizontal gap between each pane.

The curtain wall of One World Trade Center looks comparatively conventional next to Seven, with more mirrored glass and a less articulated surface. Gottesdeiner insists the curtain wall builds upon the technology and the thinking employed at the earlier tower. Glass can be made in larger sheets now and thus the more planar surface of One World Trade. The architects admit that the curtain wall of Seven was more expensive than a conventional building envelope. That may explain why it has not been imitated at a similar scale.

Seven World Trade Center set a high bar for rebuilding efforts downtown. It may prove too singular to ever be a classic. Ironically, it may remain the more outstanding building even as One World Trade will always be the one that stands out.

Alan G. Brake

The Bronx County Hall of Justice's inaccessible plaza faces a residential area.
Jeff Goldberg / ESTO

Bronx County
Hall of Justice

Rafael Viñoly/DMJM
The City of New York

Rafael Viñoly began designing the Bronx County Hall of Justice, a huge glass-fronted courthouse on 161st Street, nearly 18 years ago. The project broke ground in the summer of 2001. By that fall, the world was a very different place and when the 800,000-square-foot building opened in 2007, concerns for security and problems with construction undermined the building’s original promise of openness and transparency.

Viñoly’s accordion-like glass facade faces onto 161st Street in a stately manner, while the L-shaped plan creates a generous plaza opening onto a residential area rather than the commercial thoroughfare. “We really wanted to render a building that was open, unlike the building next door which was a fortress,” Viñoly said of the Brutalist former Criminal Court building. “This building is exactly the opposite with openness and access.”

The accordian facade overlooks 161st Street.

Even before 9/11, designs were evolving out of concern for security, with one substantial change made after the U.S. Embassy bombing in Tanzania along with other makeshift adaptations that eventually found their way into the interior. Initially as well, the plan had Grant Avenue running through an archway in the courthouse, but that idea too was abandoned. The light-filled atrium lobby, which features the two-story cylindrical form of the jury assembly room, feels like a cathedral to an open society. But like courthouses throughout the country, the atrium is now filled with ungainly security equipment and a massive police presence.

The outdoor plaza should have opened immediately after the building was completed. But inspectors found a defect in the floors beneath the plaza which hold a two-story parking garage. An investigation revealed that the rebar was not in the correct location causing the floors to dip. “No one understands why it was consistently in the wrong place,” said project director Fred Wilmers. “It took a long time for the contractor to fess up and to make sure that they fixed it. This was an excuse for not having the plaza open.”

Wilmers said that all the repairs have been made and after the Department of Buildings completes inspections, the plaza should finally open. But judging from the intense security, one has to wonder whether the court police and the NYPD will be willing to ever open it. Access to a rooftop garden over the assembly room has already been vetoed. “I’m a little hopeful that [the plaza] will eventually be opened, but it remains a question. It’s very easy for people to rally behind safety,” said Wilmers. So as the plaza continues to gesture openness to the neighborhood, real transparency remains hard to access.

Tom Stoelker

The climate-controlled courtyard at the Morgan Library & Museum.
Michel Denancé

The Morgan Library Expansion
Renzo Piano Building Workshop
Beyer Blinder Belle
The Morgan Library & Museum

By its very nature as a climate-controlled environment, the 2006 Renzo Piano-designed Morgan Library & Museum runs around the clock, so maintenance is an ongoing process. And the same design and engineering team remains on call. “For such a sophisticated building, it is actually performing pretty well,” said Richard Southwick of Beyer Blinder Belle (BBB), architect of record for the project. His respect for its success focuses on the automatic solar control that programs rolling shades in the atrium, which respond to and control the natural daylight. “The introduction and mitigation of light isn't unusual for projects by Renzo Piano, but for a museum it is,” said Southwick. “Most museums are white boxes, with very little natural light.”

In the beginning, the software controlling the shades had to be re-programmed to maintain the appropriate temperature for the building's sensitive holdings. “There was a shaking off period,” said Southwick of the tweaks and adjustments necessary during the first few months. He also mentions the large skylights that suffered water leakage and had to be refitted. “On such a large project, things that weren't constructed per spec are prone to problems,” he said. Indeed, complex systems that underpin the Morgan have been a model of precision design, but the more prosaic, low-tech aspects have proved less stable over the years. “We imported many components from all around the world,” said Southwick, referring to the counterbalance doors at the front of the Madison Avenue building. “For something as simple as a hinge door, it might have been better produced locally.” Meanwhile, the bronze doors on Madison Avenue have a tendency to jar. “It's been a chronic issue,” said Southwick.

The below-grade auditorium.

Lord Doug Mass of Cosentini, the project engineers, echoes Southwick's satisfaction with the functioning of these details as well as with the design's ability to hide features that are working the hardest. Mass cites, specifically, the displacement ventilation system, which is secreted into the structure. The specially designed mechanism filters cool air into the atrium at floor level depending on how many people are populating it, and has worked almost flawlessly. The limitations of the site—essentially a glass-box connector between the two early 20th-century buildings—have informed the level of scrutiny in design. “Everything is knitted together because we had no other choice,” said Mass, noting that 80,000 of the Morgan’s 136,000 square feet are nestled below grade in a bathtub underground that is the first of its kind at that scale in New York. “It had to be failsafe,” said Southwick.

Gwen Webber

Courtesy Albanese Organization

The Solaire, Verdesian, and Visionaire
Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects
SLCE Architects
Albanese Organization

Manicured waterfront parks and quiet cul-de-sacs may lend Battery Park City a retro-suburban gloss, but in terms of environmental design it has long been a model of forward planning. The residential towers, Solaire (2003), Verdesian (2006), and Visionaire (2008) are the products of the same team of developer, architect, contractor, and an army of enlightened consultants making the set of three built over six years an effective testing ground for what does and doesn’t work in sustainable residential construction.

In 2000 the Battery Park City Authority developed the basic green guidelines that made the 27-story Solaire rental the nation’s first green residential high-rise. It has photovoltaics recycled from computer disks armoring the bulkhead and decorating the facade producing a fairly modest amount of electricity for common areas, a basement black-water system, gas-absorption chillers, micro turbine heat recovery and fresh air duct systems, sensor lighting, extensive green roofs, and public areas decked in bamboo, cork, wheat grass rugs and a full array of recyclable materials. The building was pre-LEED in 2003, but it achieved an impressive LEED Platinum rating as an existing building in 2009.

On a recent tour Michael Gubbins, building manager for all three towers developed by the Albanese Organization, noted some of the lessons learned and design changes across the three towers. To meet on-site electric supply requirements, the Solaire deployed photovoltaics and so does the Verdesian, where they were combined with a micro turbine, while the Visionaire tops that with integrated PV’s, a micro turbine, and regenerator elevators. In addition, the Visionaire was able to take advantage of a large-panel curtain wall system (with 4,500 square feet of integrated PV-paneling) that didn’t exist for residential buildings five years ago.

Left to right: The Solaire; the Visionaire; the Verdesian.

Gubbins noted that PV’s “take longer than anything else to justify the cost.”  They are most valuable as a high-visibility “signifier to the public that the builder is thinking differently.”  Indeed, some 7,000 people have toured the Solaire. While both the Solaire and Verdesian generate about the same 5% from their PV panels, Gubbins said that easy-to-install micro turbines deliver the same with the added advantage that the resultant heat can be recycled—always a big plus in the green scheme of things. Also of limited advantage are the heliostats on the roof of the 25-story Verdesian that are intended to bounce daylight into the sun-deprived courtyard between buildings. Their focused light beams look like they might be better at frying ants.

Rafael Pelli of Pelli Clarke Pelli noted that for him one of the more intensive learning experiences concerned fresh air delivery.  Before the Solaire, he said, fresh air ventilation basically was non-existent in high-rise residential buildings. The issue was to find an efficient way to induct fresh air—for which there are no codes or standards—and not have it automatically carried off by constant-running exhaust mechanisms that have long been mandatory. The Solaire brings a steady fresh air flow in to a single source vent, but the team was able to make adjustments so that at the Visionaire it is possible to flow fresh air efficiently into every room and all public spaces. “It took a lot of research and analysis to figure that one out,” said Pelli. “In the process, we leaned how to be aggressive at testing performance. The secret is working it out at the front end through intense collaborations with the specialized consultants. It made real change happen.” One thing didn’t change at all: the water tanks on the roof are still as efficient as ever, using laws of gravity to deliver water to the apartments below.

Julie V. Iovine

Placeholder Alt Text

The Stimulus Blues
Rendering of Santiago Calatrava's PATH Station at the World Trade Center.
Courtesy LMDC

Obama’s jobs speech was music to the ears, but for architects the music is still playing in another room.

Perhaps you sat up at the president’s call for a “world class transportation system” competitive with China’s, and salivated at the prospect of “modernizing” 35,000 schools (although Obama quickly established the modest scale of renovation at fixing roofs and caulking windows and “installing science labs”.) Rebuilding schools still comes closer to design work than filling potholes. It was slightly dispiriting to hear Obama quickly—in the next breathe, actually—go from talk of re-establishing our status as an “economic superpower” through rebuilding to citing a trucking bridge in Ohio in need of a fix. (Sounds like the powerful U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lobby is still calling the shots.)

Obama did not once utter the word “infrastructure” in his speech although some tealeaf readers found implied support for the Infrastructure Bank that architects once thought was going to be the ticket to the kind of ambitious capital investments in which they long to participate—housing, courthouses, libraries, and multi-modal transportation hubs. Many more architects seemed resigned to the fact that the second stimulus, like the first, is going to pass architects by, because the work of making architecture—that’s vertical construction in job-friendly speak—with all the advance prep work from site analysis to public review, takes too long at a time when the economy needs immediate help.

But could it also be that the president believes the American public is wary of Grand Projects, and therefore of capital-A architecture? Two New York projects could easily fuel that impression: One is “New York by Gehry.”

The problem is not that Frank Gehry’s shimmery supertower doesn’t add some glamorous swag to the skyline: it most certainly does. The sorry part is the awful brick box that Gehry designed for the public school at the base. For the rental tower, he was working with $875 million. Surely he could have insisted on spreading some of the joy to the public school. He had the chance to show the world that superstar though he be, he can still do the amazing with a small budget. As it happened, Swanke Hayden Connell did their best with $65 million to fit out more than decent interiors for which they are getting zero credit. At the first day of school, it was Bloomberg and Gehry welcoming the kids. In other words, it was the usual architecture as marketing.

More worrisome still is the World Trade Center transit hub by Santiago Calatrava. If Obama never said infrastructure, he did say transportation, several times. Now under construction, most would agree that Calatrava’s hub will be world class, some ten long years after breaking ground. But as far as stimulus, this winged white elephant is an egregious overproduction. And as soon as the political group hug—also known as the tenth anniversary of 9/11—is a few weeks behind us, someone is going to start wondering why this station serving 80,000 PATH commuters—originally budgeted for $1.9 billion with expected completion by 2006—is now costing $3.44 billion (the memorial and museum cost $925 million). Charles Bagli of The New York Times—the first canary in the coal mine?—notes that Penn Station serves seven times as many people. There is a real danger of this project becoming a Red Letter A for architectural extravagance, and precisely the kind of fancy work that the country cannot afford. And that’s a real pity because the disappointing Spruce Street School cereal box and the bloated transit-osaur do not represent the highly engaged and smart long-term planning that most architects we write about today are working towards. I wish Obama had had some words of encouragement for the important work they are already doing, stimulus or not.

Placeholder Alt Text

We Made It
Joe Woolhead

The Architect’s Newspaper published its first issue two years and two months after the tragedy of 9/11/01. By that November 2003, the process of envisioning plans for the site—still called Ground Zero—had reached one of several nadirs: the architects of One World Trade Center—at that time, the Freedom Tower—were not on speaking terms; Governor Pataki was ignoring the recommendations of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, the agency officially charged with sorting out what best to do; and the finalists for the memorial competition had just been announced to tepid response.

It was a rich time for a news organization to wade into the details of how things get done in the city. Now as the tenth anniversary of 9/11 approaches, it seems that every pundit on the planet is weighing in on the emerging results of those tumultuous years, recalling sometimes inaccurately what happened, when, and why. We decided to dig up all of our own coverage from printed pages and on the web, filling in as needed from the Port Authority and LMDC’s archived press releases and such sharply detailed accounts as Philip Nobel’s intellectually knuckle-whitening 16 Acres, to make a contemporaneous timeline.

It proved to be a chastening, even stomach churning, exercise to relive even from a distance the sordid disagreements, the political posturing, and wrenching disillusions as they revealed all too clearly a complete collapse of confidence that anything inspiring, appropriate, or up to world-class standards was going to be rebuilt at the site.

But that time seems past. After several visits from our offices—now just three blocks away from the World Trade Center site, thanks to the Empire State Development Action Plan assisting small businesses in the area—the feeling is very different. In the rank upon rank of nearly grown trees, the measured pacing and pattern of granite pavers that draw all-comers from every direction inexorably toward the vast footprints, the names carved deep into the parapet stone that will be kept cool to the touch in summer and warm and ice-free in winter, there is both dignity and poetry.

Whether this is the result of design or the extreme care so obviously taken in construction and installation—special cranes had to be invented for installing the trees in their customized ground holes—it is hard to say. Certainly, the architecture built so far is compromised. One World Trade Center has been repeatedly assaulted with demands to make the base more bomb resistant—in spite of a growing awareness that prevention and deterrence before contact is the more effective security measure—and less expensive. The Snøhetta building is little more than a shed for the massive vents, mechanical equipment, and staircase serving the 98,000 square foot museum designed by Aedes (formerly Davis Brody Bond) beneath ground. Not the ambitious memorial structure as envisioned, it is still a much-needed focal point for the flat expanse between the plunging footprints. In fact, across the site, still bathed in sunlight for now, the impression is that the designs may not be spectacular visions of 21st century architecture, but they are strong enough to carry the weight all the city, not to mention tourists, will bring to bear on it over time. And sheer durability may be the best that any architecture can offer in the long run.

Placeholder Alt Text

Making Meaning
Courtesy Silverstein


Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC) established.

[ 01 ] A viewing platform overlooking ground zero designed by Diller & Scofidio, David Rockwell, and Kevin Kennon opens to large crowds.


AN 02_12.08.2003 > Read full article.

“Surely, we can afford to make Ground Zero a place of peaceable assembly for everyone. Indeed, if terror demands a civic reply, what better than a solemn memorial to those lost and a space for the most fundamental exercise of democracy in space, the freedom to gather in a place that is our own.”
-Michael Sorkin, Architect

AN 14_09.07.2004 > Read full article.

“The first and most difficult problem is so obvious that it is amazing that none of the brilliant architects assembled in the design competition dealt with the issue. The site of Ground Zero slopes down 30 feet from Broadway to West Street and the Hudson. This means that the site must be dealt with as a series of platforms from east to west and that north-south cross streets like Church and Greenwich must act as a series of steps across the site. Minoru Yamasaki’s World Trade Center design for the PA completely ignored the island’s topography.”
-D. Grahame Shane, Professor

AN 16_10.05.2005 > Read full article.

“Over the past two years, the tower has gradually been stripped of its best attributes. The final blow was delivered earlier this summer by the New York Police Department, which forced a total redesign when it demanded a greater setback from the street and a heavy barricade to resist potential bombs. Now, just after the fourth anniversary of 9/11, the Freedom Tower has become a bland prism with a forbidding 200-foot-high concrete base.”
-Jonathan Massey, Historian


January 17
The exhibition, “A New World Trade Center - Design Proposals,” 58 submissions by celebrated architects, draws long lines to Max Protetch Gallery in Chelsea.

LMDC releases Blueprint for the Future of Lower Manhattan with 15 points outlining the need for transportation, culture, commerce, memorial space, and a reestablished connection to the city grid.

Beyer Blinder Belle present planning studies at the Javits Center, plus two New Urbanism-inspired plans by Peterson Littenberg. All are widely reviled by the public and in the media.

LMDC announces Innovative Design Study, a call for qualifications. That it is not a competition is disregarded by all parties.

Teams are announced: THINK led by Frederick Schwartz and Rafael Viñoly; Peter Eisenman, Richard Meier, Steven Holl, and Charles Gwathmey; Foster & Partners; United Architects; SOM; and Studio Daniel Libeskind.

[ 02 ] The six designs are presented in the Winter Garden starting with Studio Daniel Libeskind’s “Memory Foundations,” the cheapest proposal at $330 million.


February 24
On the eve of LMDC’s selection, Schwartz, Viñoly, and Libeskind appear on Oprah Winfrey Show.

February 26
[ 03 ]The New York Times announces on page one that LMDC has chosen the THINK scheme.

February 27
Governor George Pataki officially selects the Libeskind plan.

An open competition for the memorial is announced.

By deadline, 5,201 proposals for the memorial are submitted.

After it is reported that developer Larry Silverstein’s architect David Childs from SOM and masterplan architect Libeskind cannot be left alone in the same room, LMDC announces that Childs and Libeskind are official collaborators on the $1.2 billion office, now named the Freedom Tower by Governor Pataki.

Libeskind floats a 59-page treatment for a memoir: “The Foundations of Optimism: My Journey from Communist Poland to Rebuilding the World Trade Center” that will ultimately be published as Breaking Ground: An Immigrant’s Journey from Poland to Ground Zero (Riverhead Trade) in October 2005.

Eight finalists for the memorial competition are announced.

[ 04 ] Revised design for the Freedom Tower is released.


[ 05 ] The Federal Transit Administration announces that Santiago Calatrava will design the WTC transportation hub.

[ 06 ] Libeskind’s Wedge of Light concept is displaced by and then absorbed into the transit hub.

[ 07 ] Michael Arad’s “Reflecting Absence,” now a collaborative work with landscape designer Peter Walker is selected for the memorial. The design does not include several Libeskind ideas, including the sunken bathtub and ramps. The focus on the tower footprints includes the names of those who died viewed through waterfalls.

Shortlists name potential institutions for the site’s cultural component: a 50,00-70,000-square-foot Memorial Complex (Museum of the City of New York; New York Historical Society; New York State Museum; Project Rebirth; Sound Portraits Productions); a 100,000-200,000-square-foot Performing Arts Complex (The Joyce Theater; New York City Opera; Signature Theater Company; Orpheus Chamber Orchestra; Tribeca Film Institute); and a 200,000–250,000- square-foot Cultural Building (Children’s Museum of the Arts; Drawing Center; Museum of Freedom; New York Hall of Science).

July 4
[ 08 ] Governor Pataki attends the ceremonial laying of a 20-ton block of granite as cornerstone of the Freedom Tower that will be removed again in June 2006.

Davis Brody Bond join the Arad/Walker team as associate architect for the Memorial, eventually becoming the architects of the underground Memorial Museum.

Tenants selected for the Museum Complex are the International Freedom Center and The Drawing Center. The Performing Arts Complex is to house the Joyce and the Signature theaters.

Shortlist of six firms for the Memorial Complex is released, including Moshe Safdie and Associates; Pei Cobb Freed and Partners; Polshek Partnership; Robbrecht en Daem architects with Pasanella and Klein; Stolzman and Berg Architects; Shigeru Ban Architect + Frei Otto with Dean Maltz Architect; and Snøhetta.

The shortlist for the Performing Arts Complex includes ten firms: Bing Thom Architects with Meyer/Gifford/Jones architects, Gehry Partners; Moshe Safdie and Associates; OMA and LMN; Polshek Partnership; Rafael Viñoly Architects; Schmidt, Hammer & Lassen; Studio Daniel Libeskind; Ten Arquitectos and H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture; and Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects.

Snøhetta is selected to design the Memorial Complex, largely comprised of the the International Freedom Center; Frank Gehry is to design the performing arts complex for the Joyce and the Signature theaters.


[ 09 ]Snøhetta’s design for the Memorial Complex is circulated.

New York Police Department concerns about vehicular bomb forces Childs to rework base of Freedom Tower.

The Drawing Center withdraws over controversial plans to restrict exhibition content at the site.

Governor Pataki evicts the Freedom Center from the site. Officials say that the Snøhetta building will now be used in connection with the underground memorial museum.

Norman Foster’s design for Tower 2 is unveiled.


[ 10 ] Debate erupts over the cost and viability of the waterfalls in the footprints in wintertime. A $175,000 prototype is constructed to resolve the issue. In the final musuem design, the names are moved to the parapets surrounding the waterfalls that are no longer viewable from within the museum now located under the footprints.

Silverstein cedes control of the now $2 billion Freedom Tower to the Port Authority (PA).

[ 11 ] National Trust for Historic Preservation puts a twin tower original staircase still on the site on the Most Endangered List before it is razed to make way for constructions of Foster’s Tower 2. Renamed “Survivor Stair,” it is given to the memorial museum.

7 World Trade Center opens with three tenants: the New York Academy of Sciences, Ameriprise Financial, and Vantone Real Estate. Jenny Holzer’s eight hour stream of LED poetry and prose is featured in the lobby.

[ 12 ] Childs unveils revised Freedom Tower with concrete base clad in prismatic glass and aluminum..

June 21
LMDC receives a $2.78 billion block grant from HUD. Concerns about costs result in construction company owner Frank Sciame being asked to convenea design review panel. He invites Rick Bell, Thom Mayne, among others to evaluate the memorial in order to bring cost down to the $500 million cap established by Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Pataki.

[ 13 ] Tower designs by Norman Foster, Fumihiko Maki, and Richard Rogers released.


Freedom Tower is now called 1 World Trade Center, and Durst Organization takes over leasing.

August 18
While the Deutsche Bank building is dismantled, a fire breaks out and results in the death of two firefighters.


[ 14 ] Snøhetta’s revised design is now for a pavilion entrance to the National Sept 11 Memorial and Museum.

PA announces simplified plans for the site. In addition to the scaled-back Snøhetta project, Calatrava’s transit hub is pared to essential elements but still budgeted at $3.2 billion.


PA announces that rebuilding at the World Trade Center will create 72,202 construction jobs over 10 years and $16.4 billion in economic activity.

March 19
PA and the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church that was demolished on 9/11 deadlock over negotiations to rebuild the church just east of its original site plus a $20 million subsidy.

March 26
Vantone, a Chinese real estate company, is announced to be the first major tenant for One World Trade Center.

Silverstein and PA wage on-going battles over financing and the leasing of Towers 2 and 3.


[ 16 ] PA and Silverstein reach an agreement calling, in part, for the developer to raise $300 million in private investment to access $200 million each from the City, State, and PA.

[ 15 ] Fueled by Internet activists, an international uproar engulfs the plans of an established Tribeca mosque to move into a former Burlington Coat Factory two blocks from the World Trade Center site.


Conde Nast Publications is announced as a tenant for One World Trade Center.

The prismatic glass base of One World Trade Center is scaled back. PA claims it is too difficult to manufacture, while Childs privately complains of cost cutting.

LMDC announces that a board for the Performing Arts Complex will be selected by the end of the year. LMDC will contribute $155 million toward the $400-500 million cost.

[ 17 ] One World Trade Center reaches 960 feet.


Placeholder Alt Text

Catching Up
The East River Waterfront Esplanade as seen from Pier 11.
Peter Mauss/Esto

With all eyes fixed on everything coming up roses on the West Side’s High Line, City Planning has been concentrating on the East. The long-term goal of connecting the lushly-landscaped promenades and bike paths of the West Side to the heavily trafficked spaghetti of the East Side moved a step closer with the opening on July 14 of the section from Pier 11 at Wall Street to Pier 15 at South Street Seaport. “After 9/11 we said that the most important thing for lower Manhattan is rebuilding and the transformation of the East River,” said City Planning commissioner Amanda Burden. The plans for the park are being developed with the New York City Economic Development Corporation and will ultimately extend up to Pier 35 just north of Manhattan Bridge.

With much of the park sitting beneath the FDR Drive, the Esplanade will likely draw comparisons to the High Line for its embrace of infrastructure, though it’s literally the flipside. Here, it’s about being beneath, not above. “Embracing the FDR seems so obvious now, but it wasn’t so obvious then,” said Burden. “It provides important shade and it’s an organizing principle for all of the programming.”

Left to right: The view from Wall Street; the seatwall with Riverside chair groupings; Ductile concrete seatwall with skateboard proof steel trim. (AN/Stoelker)

While the overall look —a collaboration between SHoP Architects and landscape architect Ken Smith—is quite different from the High Line, it establishes its own signature designs. So-called Get-Downs, bleacher-like stairways that drop down to water level and give visitors a chance to get their feet wet and feel the river spray, occur at several key spots, one directly across Wall Street, and allow uninterrupted sightlines. “We thought an important way to connect was that you could see the water all the way back into the city,” said SHoP’s Gregg Pasquarelli. “The railing drops so that the view corridors from the city are unobstructed.”

A line of barstools sit up against ipe wooden rails providing another unimpeded perch. The rail is wide enough to support lunch or a book. The designers also used ipe for slats in two patterns for bench seating, inspired by shipping crates and pallets. At Burden’s insistence, seating is arranged in multiple groups of two or four, around chess tables, and, for the more harried New Yorker, alone.

Left to right: Barstools' lunchtime perch; the veiw from the Ferry; The Dog Run's "Tree".

Landscape architect Ken Smith sporadically arranged multi-hued grey hexagon pavers riffing on a highly pixilated photo of the water. He also designed a series of planting beds or “dunes” rising from six inches to about two feet high. The effect creates several berms at various angles that morph on one side into “seat walls” made of ductile concrete, edged in skateboard-proof stainless steel. “There’s an emphasis on native plants, while the modulated seating and dunes create a meandering walkway,” said Smith. In the dog run, Smith got to break out his pop art with a giant bone, towering tree stump, and bear-sized squirrel all made of concrete.

This fall, the bi-level Pier 15 also by SHoP will be finished. The 517-foot-long upper pier features an extended lawn and small “forest,”while a maritime museum and café sit below. Next summer, at Maiden Lane a pavilion café, run by the same operator as the Pier 15 café, will open. The final phases of the project from Broad Street to Old Slip and from Pike and Allen Streets up to Pier 35 are expected to be completed in 2012 and 2013, respectively.

Placeholder Alt Text

Access Denied
Gertler & Wente's design for a temporary security screening room at the WTC site.
Courtesy Gertler & Wente, 9/11 Memorial and Museum

On September 11 all eyes will be on the World Trade Center site, where the 9/11 Memorial and Museum will open with ceremonies commemorating the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on New York City. In addition to a subterranean museum and memorial space, the much-anticipated complex includes an aboveground museum pavilion and a landscaped plaza with reflecting pools in the footprints of the Twin Towers.  However, due to extensive crowd control and security concerns, visitors who make a spontaneous trip to the site may find themselves not standing in these new public spaces but stuck at the site’s perimeter looking at photographs of them stretched across a chain-link construction fence instead.

Eventually, the memorial plaza will be open on all sides, but for now as construction continues at the site over the next two to three years (the Snøhetta-designed museum pavilion won’t be completed until September 2012) a temporary wayfinding system will restrict public access. Not only will standard construction fences stay in place around the greater sixteen-acre site, but the plaza itself will also be ringed by a fence of 2-foot-8-inch concrete barriers topped by 8 feet of chain-link. To enter the site, which officially opens on September 12, visitors must have a ticket and be processed through a gauntlet of intermediary spaces. (Tickets are free, and starting in July visitors may register for a day and time on the 9/11 Memorial and Museum’s website.)

Map of temporary wayfinding system now under construction at the WTC site.
[+ Click to enlarge.]

Ticketed visitors will enter at Greenwich and Albany streets at the southeast corner of the site, be funneled along a 900-foot path to a security screening room inside 90 West Street, and finally enter the memorial site at the plaza’s southwest corner, explained Jeff Gertler of Gertler & Wente Architects, designers of the holding pens and pathway barriers (graphics are by Graham Hanson) of the wayfinding plan. Gertler said screening would consist of airport-style x-ray machines and metal detectors. A separate entrance and reception area on West Street will be available for family members of 9/11 victims. Outside of the secure zone, a retail space at 90 West Street will be open to non-ticketed visitors and offer memorabilia currently available at the 9/11 preview site at 20 Vesey Street, which will transition into an exhibition about the new museum.

“Depending on how construction is going, up to 1,500 people will be allowed on the plaza at one time,” said Lynn Rasic, a spokesperson for the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, noting that visitors will be allowed to bring in cameras and backpacks. Some of the temporary security measures will be invisible to visitors. For example, the individual concrete barriers of the plaza fence will be linked internally by a massive steel cable for extra protection.

The fences will eventually vanish and the x-ray machines will move into the new museum. But for the moment, at the twice-attacked WTC site safety trumps all. “There’s no overdoing the security here,” said Gertler.

Placeholder Alt Text

World Trade Center
Looking into the memorial's south pool, with Tower One rising at upper right.
Joe Woolhead

From high atop Greenwich Street where it cuts through the World Trade Center, the drilling rig didn’t look like much. But to see the size of the men, who scrambled across it like ants on a corncob, it must have been a serious machine, capable of punching a grid of melon-sized shafts in the exposed bedrock. Even the sound, which must have been a racket, was lost in the general hubbub of the massive construction site—the clanking of steel, the shouts of men, the whining of crane hoists.

“They’re drilling the footing for Tower 2,” said Dara McQuillan, senior vice president of marketing and communications at Silverstein Properties. “Once the drilling is done, they’ll blast out the hole with dynamite. It’s a delicate process, because they can’t displace the active subway lines below us here on Greenwich by even a quarter of an inch.”

Delicacy is not the first thing that comes to mind when visiting Ground Zero, where the memories of fire and horror nearly nine years old are still plainly legible by the vast scar left in Lower Manhattan’s fabric. The sight is deceiving, though. The World Trade Center today is no longer a scene of destruction, but one of bustling rebirth. Every construction site is also a ruin, its disarray disguising the fact that it is an object of progress until the finishing touches are laid, and this is a construction site par excellence. Summoning 1,500 workers every day, a number that will expand threefold over the next year, and comprising more than six major projects interlaced and pressed cheek-to-jowl, the scale is as monumental as the engineering marvels of antiquity—the pyramids of Giza, the Roman Forum, Machu Picchu.

As if to illustrate this point, McQuillan turned his attention 20 degrees to the right, indicating a red crawler crane far below on the rocky floor, looking like the discarded toy of a brutish child. “That is the largest crane to operate ever in New York City,” he said. “It has to lift 70-ton steel columns for Calatrava’s transit center.”

Maki's Tower 4 rises on the southeast corner of the site.

For most of its history, the site has been known more for its delays. Today, however, even a casual observer passing along Church Street can see that work is moving ahead. Steel erection on Tower 1—formerly the Freedom Tower—has now reached the 28th floor above grade, and Tower 4 is now up to the sixth. Though invisible from the street, the memorial and museum are the closest to completion, with both of the original towers’ footprints now being clad in granite; tree planting and plaza construction are slated to begin in August. But the future of the masterplan is far from secure. As workers race to complete the memorial for the 10-year anniversary of 9/11, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and Silverstein Properties remain faced with a number of uncertainties that will determine their legacy on the site.

In March, the two parties signed an agreement to proceed with enough construction to ensure that all of the interconnective aspects of the masterplan will be completed in the next few years. Silverstein is only responsible for Towers 2, 3, and 4. Tower 4 is the only bright spot in this chain, due to be completed in 2013 thanks to the fact that the Port Authority and the City of New York have pre-leased approximately 60 percent of the building.

Towers 2 and 3, however, remain mired in financing woes. Under the March agreement, Silverstein agreed to spend all of its Liberty Bonds and remaining insurance proceeds on completing Tower 4 by 2013, finishing off the transit hub and retail podium aspects of Tower 3, and bringing Tower 2 at least to street level. The remainder of Tower 3 will be completed if the developer can raise $300 million of private unsupported equity, pre-lease 400,000 square feet of the office tower, and obtain private financing for the remaining cost of the tower—a tall order in these times of recession and real estate pessimism. The Port Authority, along with the city and New York State, are stepping in to help, promising Silverstein a capped public backstop of $390 million and $210 million of equity. The future of Tower 2, however, is being left to market demand, so only time will tell its fate.

The memorial's north pool under construction.

On the Port Authority’s side of the site, the situation is a bit more stable. The Authority recently signed $100 million in contracts to bring Calatrava’s transit hall and oculus to street level and above. And Tower 1, scheduled to be complete in 2013, has received its own good news. In July, the agency signed an agreement with the Durst Organization. Under the agreement, Durst will invest $100 million in the project, assist with ongoing construction, and take on primary responsibility for tenant fit-out, leasing, and property management in return for an equity interest in the building. Currently, the Port Authority has leased about half of the 2.6 million-square-foot tower, 190,810 square feet to the Chinese company Vantone Industry and 1.1 million square feet to the U.S. General Services Administration and the New York State Office of General Services.

Standing in the footprints of the original towers, a space that will soon be filled with running water while workers affix black granite panels to the walls, these questions of millions of dollars and square feet seem far away and muted. The workers have hung an American flag on one section of completed wall, a symbol of the pride they take in their jobs as well as the national importance of the site. “The other day, Larry Silverstein was taking a tour of the site and all of the workers stopped what they were doing when he walked through and applauded him,” said McQuillan, his face turning toward the jutting podium of Tower 4, just visible over the edge of the memorial. “They like that he’s fighting to get this project finished. They understand the importance of it.”

Placeholder Alt Text

The Culture Scene
Workspace Resident Mary Mattingly's studio at 200 Hudson Street at the LMCC's Open Studio Weekend in 2008.
Paul Porter

When the Twin Towers collapsed on 9/11, among the victims was the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. The group was founded around the time of the World Trade Center’s completion in 1972, with the intent to “humanize” the Financial District, in the words of its founder, Flory Barnett. There were performances in the sprawling plaza, installations in nearby bank storefronts, and, after a 1997 donation of raw space on the 91st and 92nd floors of the North Tower, the first of the council’s artists’ studios downtown.

The council lost nearly everything on that fateful day, including the life of one of its artists, Michael Richards. But like much of downtown after 9/11, it has made a rebound. There were some years of struggle and nomadism, with time spent at the World Financial Center and in DUMBO, but the group was also flooded with an outpouring of resources and goodwill that led to art happenings and new grant programs, bringing life and vibrancy to the occasionally dull and stuffy quarters downtown. The rise in residential development in the area made the need for cultural projects even greater.

Then another collapse hit, that of the financial sector, taking down the economy, philanthropy, and public funding with it. Now, with the downtown artistic community most in need, the council is struggling once again, though also finding opportunities where few existed in the headier days of years past.

It has fallen to Sam Miller to find a way forward for the council and the Lower Manhattan arts scene it has fostered over the years. Miller became executive director of the organization on June 30, having spent years running similar artists’ support organizations in New York and Massachusetts. He said that despite the challenges of the past and current climates, Lower Manhattan presents a rare opportunity.

“There are so many assets here,” Miller said. “Architectural assets, cultural organizations, public amenities.” The goal is figuring out how to get them all working together, whether it’s a relatively specialized concern like the Museum of Finance or a vacant storefront, with as little financial outlay as possible. “We need to build up the capacity for others to do this work,” Miller said. “It’s not only about working with partners, but building up partners to work with.”

Workspace resident Eric Sall's studio at 200 Hudson Street in 2008.
Paul Porter

While the council has had its operating budget reduced by 12.5 percent and staff reduced to 19, Miller said this has had a clarifying effect on the organization. “To me, the key thing over the next few years is strategic thinking about protecting and sustaining your work,” Miller said. The emphasis will be on bolstering current programming such as Lentspace, residencies that create site-specific installations, and Sitelines, a similar program at the River to River Festival for performance.

The council is in hot pursuit of roughly $28.6 million of unspent culture funding held by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation. Miller is also keeping his focus decidedly street-level, letting downtown’s competing bureaucracies figure out big-picture issues like where to put, or even whether to build, Frank Gehry’s Performing Arts Center.

The upside of the recession has meant the abatement of real estate pressures, which has created more opportunities for finding studio space, though such gains must also be carefully guarded. “I think it is critical, how the recovery can be managed in a way that’s beneficial to all the key stakeholders and does not become unbalanced again,” Miller said. “The value of embedding the arts and culture throughout the neighborhood, that value should be multiplied, not minimized.”

Placeholder Alt Text

Gaga for Gehry
We knew Rem Koolhaas had a crush on Miuccia Prada, but now Frank Gehry and her have teamed up, and it's not for a new "epicenter." As The New Yorker details in a Talk piece this week, the Santa Monica architect was asked by his artist friend Francesco Vezzoli to design a hat for none other than walking art piece Lady Gaga, and the hat, along with her dress, were made by Prada for a benefit at LA's Museum of Contemporary Art last month. As Dana Goodyear describes it, "Gaga wore the Gehry hat all folded in on itself, a millinery version of Walt Disney Hall." But this being The New Yorker, there were no pictures, only a drawing, so we had to see the hat for ourselves, which, thanks to Gaga Daily, we found it. But the real treat is hearing Gehry describe his pièce de résistance:
Gehry said that he had done the initial drawing on his iPhone, which an assistant then produced: a violet scribble with a black-and-blue iris at the center. “Since I’ve never designed a hat before, I was afraid she wouldn’t be able to walk,” he said. “I did have an idea that involved people with sticks holding it up, walking behind her. I didn’t know how far I could go with this thing.”
Starchitecture indeed.