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Architect defines WTC plans in patriotic terms

From Phil Hirschkorn

Architect Daniel Libeskind's other designs include the Imperial War Museum in Manchester, England, and the Jewish Museum in Berlin, Germany.
Architect Daniel Libeskind's other designs include the Imperial War Museum in Manchester, England, and the Jewish Museum in Berlin, Germany.

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A complex of angular buildings and a 1,776-foot spire designed by architect Daniel Libeskind is chosen as the plan for the World Trade Center site. (February 27)
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  • 1,776-foot spire with gardens above the 70th floor
  • Leaves part of the World Trade Center foundation exposed as part of memorial
  • 7.5 million square feet of office space
  • Born in Poland in 1946, the son of two Holocaust survivors
  • Came to the United States when he was 13; first sight of America was the Statue of Liberty
  • Became a U.S. citizen in 1965
  • Studied music before taking up architecture
  • Signature design is the Jewish Museum in Berlin, Germany
  • NEW YORK (CNN) -- The government agency created to oversee rebuilding on the ruined World Trade Center site has named Polish-American architect Daniel Libeskind to be the project's lead architect.

    Libeskind won an international design competition to remake the 16-acre site as a commercial and cultural center that would revitalize Lower Manhattan as it continues to recover from the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that claimed nearly 3,000 lives.

    "From the moment this tragedy befell New York, I was determined to do as much as I could," Libeskind told CNN in an interview after his selection was announced Thursday.

    Officials involved in choosing Libeskind cited his 4 1/2-acre garden setting for a memorial as a major strength of his plan, which is called "Memory Foundations."

    "There is a tremendous amount of room for a great memorial, which is, of course, every family member's concern," said Paula Grant Berry, whose husband, David, was killed in the trade center attacks.

    The 56-year-old Libeskind has defined his plan in patriotic terms -- building a 1,776-foot tower symbolic of American independence and leaving the trade center's surviving foundation walls exposed as standard-bearers for democracy.

    The architect, a naturalized American, immigrated to New York with his parents, both Holocaust survivors, as a teen in 1959. His first view of the United States was the Statue of Liberty upon arrival in New York Harbor.

    "You can't separate what you do outside from the person you are and from the vision of America that you have," Libeskind said.

    Libeskind will create one entrance to Ground Zero that will lead visitors through a historical museum into a grassy, open space 30 feet below street level, where a yet-to-be-designed memorial will go. His modified plan no longer goes down to bedrock, 70 feet deep, responding to the needs of transportation infrastructure.

    Libeskind does leave untouched the acre-wide footprints where the 110-story twin towers stood to be incorporated into a memorial, satisfying a priority of victims' families.

    But some people remain concerned that issues of crowd control, such as where tour buses might park, are unresolved.

    "How are we going to accommodate for the people visiting, making pilgrimages here who've never come before," said Monica Iken, who advocated preserving as memorial space the seven-acre area within the foundation walls, where many remains were found.

    Iken, whose husband, Michael, was killed September 11, added, "I don't want to have to worry that when I go there in the future that I have to shuffle through people and wait on lines to honor my husband."

    In addition to his tower, which will include a broadcasting antenna on top, Libeskind plans to build a new performing arts center and a railroad station on the site.

    At street level, Libeskind would restore Manhattan's grid -- a north-south street and one east-west street running through the site -- allowing for pedestrian access to new retail shops and restaurants and a new European-style piazza.

    Having calculated the arc of the sun, Libeskind said that a wedge of natural light would funnel visitors through the 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.

    "The wedge of light is beautiful," said Charles Wolf, whose wife, Katherine, worked for Marsh & McLennan on the 107th floor of the north tower. "My wife was killed at 8:46 when the plane crashed ... directly in the path of that first plane, so to me that is significant."

    Libeskind allocates parcels of land for up to 10 million square feet of office space -- what the twin towers held -- that could be phased in as the market demands.

    Larry Silverstein, the trade center leaseholder, has pledged any insurance proceeds, an estimated $3.5 billion to $7 billion, toward developing commercial buildings.

    Libeskind was among a pair of architectural finalists named this month by the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. It had commissioned seven teams of architects last fall to submit designs for skyline-restoring towers and other components.

    A separate memorial competition will begin with a call for entries in April.

    Proposed development at Ground Zero
    Proposed development at Ground Zero

    Libeskind beat out a team called THINK, led by Manhattan-based architects Rafael Vinoly and Fred Schwartz, whose offices are within walking distance from the site. THINK's modified proposal called for a pair of stainless steel, lattice twin towers rising 1,440 feet with a museum at the 35th floor.

    "Some people looked at these towers and said, 'Those are the most inspiring evidence of rebirth of the city; they're the greatest landmark on the horizon,'" said Roland Betts, a board member on the Lower Manhattan Development Corp.

    "Other people just as earnestly looked at those towers and said, 'Those are skeletal remains of the trade center, and I will never look at those without thinking of the attack and death.' "

    THINK also faced concerns over the towers' cost -- at least $400 million -- and their construction interfering with the ongoing rebuilding of subway and railroad lines. A temporary station for trains to and from New Jersey is expected to reopen on the site by the end of the year.

    "Our team put forth its very best effort," Schwartz said in a written statement Thursday. "We commend the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. for its leadership and commitment to a truly public process."

    Officials said groundbreaking on Libeskind's plan could happen within 18 months. The architect predicted his smaller buildings could be completed within four years.

    "We will not be defined by the hatred of a single day but the unity that followed," said New York Gov. George Pataki, who controls the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., along with Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

    "It is now our task to make sure the plan you see today becomes a reality," Pataki said.

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