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Six teams chosen to create new designs for WTC site

From Phil Hirschkorn (CNN New York Bureau)


NEW YORK (CNN) -- Vowing an adherence to "quality and a keen sense of mission," the agency overseeing rebuilding at the World Trade Center site has hired six new design teams to create land use plans for the 16-acre site.

In announcing its choices Thursday, the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. said that 27 architectural firms and five countries, including the United States, are represented.

"The teams bring diverse assets to the table," said John Whitehead, LMDC chairman. "Some bring expertise in retail and residential developments; some offer experience in the design of large public infrastructure projects; others are best known for designing museums and cultural institutions," Whitehead said.

The teams will have until November to submit their final designs. The goal is to settle on a single land use scheme by the spring of 2003.

A separate competition for a memorial to those killed in the September 11 terrorist attacks will be held later.

The selected building design teams include a pair of European firms -- Foster and Partners, from London, which built the new German Parliament building in Berlin, and Studio Daniel Libeskind, from Berlin.

Four teams will collaborate with firms or individual architects. Firms from Japan and the Netherlands are among the collaborative teams.

Among the better known American architects chosen are Richard Meier, who built the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, and Charles Gwathmey, who built the Guggenheim Museum addition and Morgan Stanley's headquarters in New York. They are collaborating on one team.

Another team will be led by David Childs of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, the firm designing Manhattan's new Penn Station and the headquarters for AOL-Time Warner, the parent company of CNN.

Until now, S.O.M. has also been the architect for Larry Silverstein, the World Trade Center leaseholder who hopes to rebuild skyscrapers on the site. S.O.M. will no longer work for Silverstein, except on the office tower replacing 7 World Trade Center, a 47-story office tower adjacent to the 16-acre site. That project is already under construction.

Over the past two weeks, the LMDC reviewed 426 submissions from 34 countries.

"In addition to the world watching, the world is participating," said LMDC board member Roland Betts, a member of the six-person committee that chose the winning teams. One politician, former New Hampshire congressman Richard Swett, a professional architect, was on the panel.

Betts said the LMDC's goal would be to show the public as many as three site proposals by the end of the year. The next proposals will most likely combine elements from various designs by the new teams, each receiving only a $40,000 stipend for the work.

Preliminary plans were assembled by the Manhattan-based design firm Beyer Blinder Belle, with help from Peterson Lindberg, to replace the 11 million square feet of office space lost when the 110-story twin towers and several smaller buildings were destroyed September 11, 2001, by terrorist hijackers who killed nearly 2,800 people.

Those plans received lackluster reviews. The requirement to replace the office space, plus a lost hotel and shopping space, came from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the transportation agency that built and owned the Trade Center.

The Port Authority was trying to preserve a revenue stream and honor its lease with Silverstein, who signed a 99-year lease the Trade Center in July 2001. Silverstein, who is still paying $124 million annually in rent, wants to rebuild the office space over the next decade, and he is suing his insurers to maximize their payments to help him do that.

Port Authority Chairman Joseph Seymour said Thursday the teams would have "new flexibility" on the amount of office space. But the planners have not settled on a minimum amount of square footage.

The LMDC had encouraged applicants to envision a range of office space, a variety of open spaces instead of just one grassy plaza, and cultural institutions and residential housing in their plans. The firms were also advised to include certain favored design elements, such as a mile-long promenade along the western edge of the site and a tall structure that would make the Lower Manhattan skyline distinctive again.

The LMDC discouraged planning anything unrelated to a memorial on the 1-acre plots where the towers stood, known as the "footprints."

"Ultimately, the teams will help us to develop a truly compelling design for the World Trade Center site -- a grand and majestic vision that inspires awe while respectfully memorializing the lives lost on September 11th," Whitehead said. "And I promise you this: it will be glorious."

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