WTC architect reasserts role
Developer has said others might be involved in rebuilding
From Phil Hirschkorn
NEW YORK (CNN) -- Daniel Libeskind, the architect selected to oversee rebuilding on the World Trade Center site, said he expects a "creative partnership" with the real estate developers who might implement his vision.
But in an interview Wednesday with CNN, Libeskind reasserted his central role after developer and trade center leaseholder Larry Silverstein sought this week -- at least rhetorically -- to seize control of the rebuilding process.
"I like Larry but, look, it's an evolution. We have to all work together; we have to all find a consensus," said Libeskind, who recently moved from Berlin, Germany, with his wife and business partner, Nina, to set up an office blocks from the downtown Manhattan site.
"We will work with all parties," Libeskind said. "We will work with everybody for the good of New York."
In a speech Tuesday to real estate industry insiders, Silverstein said the rebuilt site would respect Libeskind's vision although he might not be the main architect when groundbreaking starts next summer.
In response, Libeskind told CNN, "I think it has to be a creative partnership. It cannot be adversarial. It cannot be 'I want this' and 'you want this.' It has to be creative because that's what New Yorkers and people around the world expect.
"This is not just any site. This is the rebuilding of Ground Zero; this is something of memory, something of the future, which is not just up for grabs. And I think everybody understands that it needs that spirit to create something inspiring, poetic and functional for New Yorkers."
He spoke outside the Cornell Club, where he was making a presentation about his trade center site plan to a B'nai B'rith luncheon.
Libeskind recently signed contracts with the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., the city-state agency overseeing the rebuilding process, and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the transportation agency that owns the 16-acre site.
The Lower Manhattan Development Corp., led by Gov. George Pataki and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, chose Libeskind after an unprecedented, international design competition featuring some of the world's best-known architects.
His plan, chosen in February, calls for a skyline-restoring 1,776-foot spindle-shaped tower with 70 occupied floors and a restaurant and an observatory above.
He allocates 4.5 acres for a sunken memorial garden to honor the 3,000 people killed in the terrorist attacks that toppled the 110-story twin towers and additional space for a commemorative museum, modern train station, performing arts center and retail shopping space.
"Absolutely, that's my commitment, and that's the commitment of New York," Libeskind said.
He brushed off the implication from Silverstein that the iconic tower planned for the site might not be built fully according to his vision.
"That tower's an extremely important building," Libeskind said. "It's not just a high-rise in any town done by any architect, but it's a very specific tower ... which mirrors the aspirations of the sky of New York."
Silverstein, whose 99-year lease signed in July 2001 gives him the right to rebuild, has said he intends to hire his own architects to build the tower and as many as four other buildings on the site.
Libeskind conceded he expects to have collaborators.
"I think that there is room obviously for many architects to work on this site. It's not going to be done just by one architect," Libeskind said.
But he added, "I don't intend to, you know, sort of slide and derail myself. I'm responsible, and it's the marathon. I'm in it."
Libeskind got a boost Wednesday from the Civic Alliance to Rebuild Downtown New York, a coalition of community groups influencing the process. It held a news conference to announce its opposition to altering Libeskind's plan or marginalizing his role.
"The Libeskind plan was chosen as the result of a historic and inclusive public process," said Holly Leicht, director of Imagine New York. "Attempts to dramatically change it undermine the public's trust in the rebuilding process."
For example, some Lower Manhattan residents have said they would prefer if the memorial plaza were raised to street level.
"The memorial space is clearly what distinguished the Libeskind plan from the other plans and was the primary reason for its selection," said Rick Bell, executive director of the New York chapter of the American Institute of Architects.
"Bringing the memorial area up to ground level so that commuters can rush through every day changes the fundamental element of the plan."
The alliance also criticized the idea put forward by Silverstein and his partner, Westfield America that a substantial portion of new shopping space be built underground.