Winning WTC plan is taller than twin towers
From Phil Hirschkorn
NEW YORK (CNN) -- Daniel Libeskind, the son of Holocaust survivors whose first memorable sighting of the United States was the Statue of Liberty, has been chosen to be the lead architect for rebuilding on the World Trade Center site.
The announcement naming Libeskind was made Thursday morning by the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., an agency created after the September 11, 2001, terrorists attacks to oversee redevelopment of the 16-acre site. The site will also include a memorial to the nearly 3,000 people killed in the double skyjacking attacks on the twin towers.
Libeskind was named earlier this month as one of two finalists in the design competition. New York Gov. George Pataki and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg were on hand for the announcement.
Pataki and Bloomberg personally favored the Libeskind plan over its rival, created by a team called THINK, which is led by architects Rafael Vinoly and Fred Schwartz, sources said.
The governor and mayor felt Libeskind's design offered the maximum flexibility for a memorial, as it provides acre-wide "footprints" of the twin towers. They received private presentations from the two contenders right before the LMDC panel voted on the winner.
"There was unanimous agreement," said Matt Higgins, an LMDC spokesman. The committee included representatives of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which built the trade center, owns its land, and months ago began rebuilding transit lines on it.
The LMDC had commissioned seven teams of architects last fall to submit designs for skyline-restoring towers, as well as a train station, park space, and cultural facilities, including a Sept. 11 museum. The designs allocated several acres for a memorial, to be chosen in a separate competition commencing this spring.
Libeskind was one of four architects who proposed structures higher than the world's tallest building, which the 110-story twin towers were when they were completed in the early 1970s.
The Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur now hold the record of being the tallest buildings, at 1,483 feet, followed by the Sears Tower in Chicago, at 1,454.
Three architectural teams proposed re-creating twin towers. Libeskind did not.
Libeskind's proposal featured a tower 1,776 feet tall, for the year of American independence, that would demonstrate "the durability of democracy." The top levels would hold indoor gardens that would be a "confirmation of life."
The tower, attached to an office building, would be adjacent to a museum, a performing arts center and a rail station. The buildings would be integrated with a restored intersection of streets; the site was an elevated plaza during the life of the trade center.
Libeskind says that having calculated the arc of the sun, a wedge of natural light would funnel visitors to the memorial site, and that every September 11 between 8:46 a.m., when the first tower was struck by a plane, and 10:28 a.m., when the second tower collapsed, no shadows will be cast by his buildings.
Libeskind's plan would also leave exposed part of the trade center's 70-foot deep concrete foundation walls, known as the bathtub, for keeping out Hudson River waters.
"Not everything was destroyed. At bedrock level, New York stands as vital as ever before," the architect explained in a recent interview with CNN.
Libeskind, 56, is a former New Yorker who is now based in Berlin, where he designed the Jewish Museum that opened in Sept. 2001. Born in postwar Poland, his parents were both Holocaust survivors; his father and his aunt were the only two of 11 children in their family to survive the Auschwitz concentration camp.
The Libeskind family emigrated to Israel and then to the United States when Libeskind was a teenager, arriving by boat in 1959 in New York harbor.
"I never forgot that skyline and what it means to an immigrant, an American. It's not just a symbol. It's not just something up in the air. It's about the values that we all share," Libeskind said in the interview.
He went to high school and studied architecture in New York. His previous projects include the Imperial War Museum in Manchester, England, and the soon-to-be-built Denver Art Museum.
His plan for lower Manhattan leaves parcels of space to build from 6.5 million to 10 million square feet of office space, as the market demands.
"The art of urban planning is not just to do fantasies, to impose mega-structural ideas, but to create rich fabric that has the complexity of New York City. New York City is not just a simple-minded village," Libeskind said.
The choice of Libeskind marks a turning point in this most public of architectural competitions. The LMDC has considered tens of thousands of comments received via e-mail and at an exhibition of the design models, and held more than 50 public hearings. A massive town meeting last July rejected six original site proposals, and prompted the new competition that led to Libeskind.
The plan put forward by Vinoly and Schwartz proposed a pair of stainless steel lattice towers rising 1,440 feet with a museum at the 35th floor -- heights lowered since the plan was unveiled two months ago. The towers would have housed what they called a "world cultural center."
"Since 9-11, I have dedicated my life to helping our city, our country, and the families. I am honored to have participated in this extraordinary process," said Schwartz in a written statement. "I will continue to help in any way I can."