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World's tallest towers proposed for WTC site

Two finalists chosen; winner named late in month

From Phil Hirschkorn
CNN New York Bureau

One of the two finalists' plans envisions two towers rising 1,665 feet.
One of the two finalists' plans envisions two towers rising 1,665 feet.

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At a public forum, New Yorkers got their first chance to critique the nine proposals for rebuilding the WTC site. CNN's Jason Carroll reports.
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Which of the two finalists' designs do you prefer for the World Trade Center site?

Studio Daniel Libeskind

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Two architectural teams were named finalists Tuesday in the competition to design what will be built on the World Trade Center site, each proposing plans that would create the tallest structures in the world, easily dwarfing the twin towers destroyed in the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Studio Daniel Libeskind of Berlin, Germany, and a New York-led team dubbed THINK were named finalists by the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. THE LMDC, a city-state agency overseeing the rebuilding process, chose them from among seven contenders.

Both plans feature structures that would reach 300 feet or more higher than the World Trade Center's 110-story twin towers, and surpass the tallest buildings in the world, the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. They would create signature structures where the twin towers had dominated the landscape of Lower Manhattan.

The developer holding the lease at the Trade Center when it was attacked has said he is opposed to erecting such tall structures, telling officials that "super-tall office buildings" are no longer practical.

A committee -- including representatives of the LMDC, the site's owner, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the office of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Gov. George Pataki -- chose the finalists. It is expected to settle on a single land-use plan by the end of the month.

Popular plans

Daniel Libeskind's team and the THINK team, led by Fred Schwartz and Rafael Vinoly, were among the seven groups that offered elaborate plans for the 16-acre site and its immediate surroundings in mid-December.

"In the aftermath of these tragedies, there is optimism," said Libeskind, a Polish-born American and the son of Holocaust survivors.

"We remember every day what we lost so we can envision something great for the future," said Schwartz, a New Yorker whose office has a view of Ground Zero.

Both plans received popular acclaim in the thousands of comments submitted at a public exhibition of the architects' models and to the LMDC's Web site. People especially praised their skyline-restoring components, noting that each plan would establish soaring structures in the spot where the 1,360-foot towers stood.

The centerpiece of Libeskind's proposal is a 1,776-foot-tall, spindle-shaped tower that would be filled above the 70th floor with indoor gardens. Libeskind would leave portions of the 70-foot-deep Ground Zero pit open, exposing the concrete foundation walls that survived the towers' collapse. He sets aside five parcels for 7.5 million square feet in office space.

THINK proposes a pair of 1,665-foot open latticework towers, reminiscent of the Eiffel Tower, rising from the footprints of the twin towers and housing cultural facilities. The towers would contain viewing platforms near the top and project beams of lights into the sky at night. The team proposes eight mid-sized office buildings around the towers, none higher than 59 floors, with a total of 8.5 million square feet of office space.

Each finalist also allocates space for a memorial, a major new train station, shopping areas, a hotel and parks.

Both plans go back on public display in the atrium of the World Financial Center, adjacent to Ground Zero, February 7.

Plans 'not practical'

Libeskind has designed the Jewish Museum in Berlin, Germany, the War Museum in Manchester, England, and an expansion of the Denver Art Museum, soon to be under construction in Colorado.

Schwartz designed the new Staten Island Ferry Terminal under construction in Lower Manhattan. Vinoly, just named to design two buildings on the plaza of the JFK Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, designed the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and the Tokyo International Forum in Japan.

The plans will be evaluated not only for their aesthetics, but also for their workability -- how they restore the grid of streets in Lower Manhattan, how they affect traffic flow, how they connect to surrounding neighborhoods, and how their construction will be phased in over the years.

"No plan, in its current configuration, is perfect," said LMDC board member Roland Betts, who sits on the design decision committee.

Larry Silverstein, the developer who signed a 99-year lease on the Trade Center six weeks before the complex was destroyed, said he opposes building such towering structures.

"It is not practical to build super-tall office buildings in the post-9/11 world," Silverstein told the LMDC in a nine-page letter dated January 31. "The occupied portion of any building" on the site should be "no more than 65 to 70 stories (900 to 1,000 feet) in height."

No building should be larger than 2.5 million square feet, Silverstein said. Each twin tower had 4 million square feet of space.

Citing advice from his architectural, engineering, and security experts, Silverstein argued against building anything as high as the twin towers. Increased evacuation times and the difficulty of fighting a fire in such a tall building make such plans unrealistic, he said.

Also planned for the site: a memorial to nearly 2,800 people who died when two hijacked airliners slammed into the towers. It will be the first project built after an international design competition that commences this spring.

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