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New York unveils new WTC plans

Four proposals envision world's tallest buildings

From Phil Hirschkorn

The World Trade Center site
The World Trade Center site

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CNN's Jason Carroll reports on new proposals to replace the World Trade Center destroyed in the September 11 terror attacks (December 18)
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• World Trade Center memorial: Your proposals 

• Interactive: 3-D view of WTC complex 

• Interactive: An initial set of designs  met with a lackluster reception over the summer
Which plan for rebuilding the World Trade Center grounds do you like best?

1 -- Studio Daniel Libeskind
2 -- Foster and Partners
3 -- Meier Eisenman Gwathmey Holl
4 -- THINK Team
5 -- United Architects
6 -- Peterson/Littenberg
7 -- Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Architects and designers proposed Wednesday that the world's tallest structures replace the twin towers of the World Trade Center, destroyed in the September 11 terror attacks.

Seven teams presented proposals for the site, four of them calling for those tallest buildings to stand on the 16-acre site in Lower Manhattan.

"Today we preview the future," said Joseph Seymour, director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the site. "Today we see what tomorrow might bring."

The new plans from the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. (LMDC) are being called more dramatic and varied than the first set, which met with lackluster public reaction during the summer.

More than 400 design teams applied to devise new plans, and the LMDC narrowed the field to seven to come up with proposals.

Memorials for victims

• Norman Foster of London's Foster and Partners said his plan would include a glass-encased underground mall with twin towers that would rise 1,765 feet. A walkway would connect them: "They kiss and touch," he said.

Foster's plan, along with three others, calls for buildings that would dwarf Malaysia's 1,483-foot Petronas Twin Towers, now the world's tallest buildings. The fallen World Trade Center towers were 1,368 and 1,362 feet tall.

United Architects, an international group of designers, is proposing five towers with a sky memorial. The tallest of the buildings would be 1,620 feet high.

Los Angeles architect Greg Lynn said the buildings would create a "sacred and cathedral-like space." The structures would "unify and touch each other to provide strength and safety," he said.

The tallest structures would be two 2,100-foot metal towers proposed by the THINK team, a group of U.S. designers. The proposal, which is one of three the group submitted, also includes a building 1,700 feet tall.

Memorials to victims

The proposals include memorials to the nearly 3,000 people who died when terrorists hijacked airliners and crashed them into the towers.

Among the plans is a pedestrian promenade two-thirds of a mile long, reaching from the site's western side to the southern edge of Manhattan.

All the plans include a terminal on the scale of Grand Central Station to unite dozens of subway and suburban train lines.

The Lower Manhattan Development Corp. will display the proposals at the World Financial Center and online, and invite opinion through public hearings and e-mail.

The guidelines for this round called for 6.5 million to 10 million square feet of office space, as much as 1 million square feet of retail shopping space and a hotel.

Firms were instructed to avoid designs that placed structures on the acre-wide square "footprints" where the twin towers stood and to build no housing on the site.

Thirty-two design firms, individual architects and artists from the United States and four other countries made up the seven teams. They included a pair of European firms -- Foster and Partners, which was involved in the renovation of the German Reichstag building in Berlin, Germany, and Berlin's Studio Daniel Libeskind, which built the Jewish Museum in Berlin and is working on the Denver Art Museum.

"It's a project that touched me as an immigrant and as a New Yorker," said Libeskind, who came to the United States in 1959 with his sister and Holocaust survivor parents.

The signature of Libeskind's plan is an office tower with a dramatic skyline element rising 1,776 feet. He proposes six acres of memorial space and 8 million square feet of office space.

"It's about freedom, it's about America, and it's about New York, and how does the city move forward in the face of these tragic events," Libeskind said.

'A sacred precinct, a place of dignity'

Among the better-known U.S. architects involved are Richard Meier, who designed the Getty Center in Los Angeles, and Charles Gwathmey, who did the Guggenheim Museum addition and Morgan Stanley headquarters in New York. The two are collaborating.

"Our view is the entire World Trade Center is a sacred precinct, a place of dignity, a place of aspiration, a place of contemplation and of hope and memory," Meier said.

The centerpiece of the plan is a memorial square with "fingers" extending into Lower Manhattan to symbolize the tragedy. "These events went beyond the site," Meier said.

His team would make three-quarters of the site an open space and would create multiple memorial sites, including pools of water and representations of shadows the towers cast at the moment they fell. Meier would build a pair of buildings standing 1,111 feet -- but would not make them twin towers.

Another team is led by David Childs of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, which built the Sears Tower and is designing Manhattan's new Penn Station and the headquarters for AOL Time Warner, parent company of CNN.

Skidmore is working on 7 World Trade Center, a 52-story tower for developer Larry Silverstein, to replace the destroyed office tower that stood north of the 16-acre trade center site.

Silverstein had signed a 99-year lease for the trade center in July 2001 and pays $124 million to the site's owner, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. He is suing his insurers to collect billions of dollars earmarked for rebuilding.

Roger Duffy, who presented the Skidmore plan, called the nine-building proposal a "vertical city."

The plan features nine commercial buildings, each rising to 1,000 feet, or about 80 floors, totaling 12.5 million square feet of commercial space. It also calls for acres of public and cultural space inside the buildings, with open spaces inside at 140 feet, 280 feet, 750 feet and 1,000 feet to be lit at night. Half of the site would be a reflecting pool. Three acres would be set aside for a memorial park.

"Like Central Park, the vertical city offers a unique experience in one place," Duffy said.

The smallest firm competing is the husband-wife team of Stephen Peterson and Barbara Littenberg. A promenade, introduced this summer, was originally their idea. "It could be the Champs-Élysées of New York," Peterson said.

The couple proposes new twin towers rising 1,400 feet, with a public garden as the centerpiece. The footprints of the towers would be incorporated into the garden, which would be a memorial space. The south tower footprint would be a pool, while the north tower one would house an amphitheater with the same number of seats as victims -- 2,792, in the city's latest count.

New York architect Frederic Schwartz, who is rebuilding the Staten Island Ferry Terminal in Lower Manhattan, leads a team with members from Japan, Germany and England. "It's dealing with the neighborhood," Schwartz said.

"I live here. I walk out my front door -- that's where the towers were. But we recognize the global importance of what we're doing." He said his team's plan balances density and open space. "It's quality and concept, not quantity," he said.

All teams received a stipend of $40,000 for their work.

"This has been an incredible -- every minute -- emotional project," Schwartz said. "You have a great responsibility to inspire."

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