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Don't Rebuild. Reimagine.(NY Times feature w/ tons of WTC designs)
NY Times Magazine ^ | 9/8/02 | Herbert Muschamp

Posted on 09/07/2002 3:17:05 PM PDT by finnman69

September 8, 2002 Don't Rebuild. Reimagine. By HERBERT MUSCHAMP

fter the catastrophe of 9/11, who wanted to think about the aesthetics of architecture? Many people, it turned out. Buildings were the targets of the terrorist attacks. Fantasies of new buildings became a form of recovery: signs of the city's resilience in the face of unprecedented enemy assault. Proposals came from architects, artists and the public. And in July they came from the architecture firm formally chosen to supply these first-draft plans for what a rebuilt ground zero ought to look like. These official plans were universally derided.

The outpouring of images and emotions revealed a predicament gripping New York. To what extent should the city respond by getting back to normal? To what extent had the historical magnitude of 9/11 redirected the city's future away from normality? The six plans had been rejected as simply more sameness at a time when difference was called for. Had we not had our fill of ''going back''?

In June, a group of New York architects met to discuss their dissatisfaction with the planning process unfolding under the auspices of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, the state agency created to supervise the rebuilding of ground zero and the financial district. The group included Richard Meier, Steven Holl, Peter Eisenman, Charles Gwathmey and Guy Nordenson, a structural engineer.

It had become clear to this group that the official planning process was following a pattern conventionally used by real-estate developers and that, in this instance, it had to be broken.

The pattern, a privatized version of city planning, routinely excludes architecture from the formative stages. Planners chop up the development sites into parcels, develop guidelines for each one and then hand them over to developers, who subdivide the building project among an assortment of specialists, including lawyers, interior-space planners, retail consultants, construction companies, architects and construction managers. In this way, large building projects of potentially major civic importance are delivered into the hands of competent but unimaginative firms. The assumption is: Anyone can do it. Just follow the guidelines.

This system is based upon the catastrophic misconception that architectural values can be objectively quantified. From this initial mistake, erroneous ideas accumulate: architecture is the production of images; discrimination among images is entirely a matter of taste; one person's taste is as good as another's; the most popular image (or as it usually works out, the least unpopular image) must be the best building.

But of course, architecture is not a matter of images. It is the relationship of visual and spatial perceptions to conceptual abstractions. Or as Frank Lloyd Wright once put it, ''Architecture is the scientific art of making structure express ideas.''

Hearing of their heated conversations, The New York Times Magazine asked these architects if they would like to organize their frustrations into what might best be described as a study project. They readily agreed.

Throughout the summer, the group, which had taken on other members, including more of the architectural world's best-known practioners as well as some very talented, less well-known architects of the next generation, gathered at a series of loud, contentious meetings. Almost immediately, they decided to look beyond ground zero and reimagine a scheme for the entirety of Lower Manhattan. They argued over core principles, lobbying one another by phone and fax. Eventually they reached something like an agreement, or at least the broad strokes of one. Then each architect was assigned a specific site and task and asked to supply a corresponding image.

Images stimulate desire; the story of this study project could not be told without them. The project itself, however, is based on the belief that images are portals into consciousness. The project conceives of the city as pedagogical center: the paramount learning device of civilization.

Lower Manhattan is a site of convergence for two sets of urban infrastructures: the transportation systems (including streets) that provide access to the financial center and the communications systems that connect distant cities into an evolving global economic framework. The study project proposes to link these two systems with a third: a cultural infrastructure designed to reinforce connections between cities around the globe.

The project does not set forth a comprehensive plan. Rather, it presents an integrated set of options for the future of New York, a widening of possibilities beyond the shopworn, consumerist notions of ''cultural programming'' that have been proposed for ground zero: an opera house, for example, or the downtown branch of an uptown art museum. The product envisioned by the study is a recast cultural identity for 21st century New York: a revised mythology of our place in the era of globalization. The entire framework is presented as a living memorial to those who died in last year's attack.

The team began by adopting a strategy developed by Frederic Schwartz, architect of the Staten Island Ferry Terminal at the southern tip of Manhattan. Schwartz, who worked on the Westway highway project in the 1970's and 80's, had long recommended burying a segment of West Street, a six-lane state highway that divides Battery Park City from the rest of Lower Manhattan.

After 9/11, Schwartz calculated that the land created by burying this segment could easily yield 16 acres of developable land, enough to match the size of the World Trade Center site. He then figured out how the trade center's commercial bulk could be distributed over a new West Street development corridor.

In one stroke, this strategy accomplished two goals. It temporarily eliminated commercial pressures from the highly contested ground-zero site. And it healed a gash in the cityscape that had long obstructed the integration of Battery Park City with the financial district. The plan did not prohibit building on ground zero. It simply created a space for planners to devote more time and thought to conceptualizing how best to utilize the site.

The design team adopted the same commercial program used by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation's planners: 11 million square feet of office space, 600,000 square feet of retail space and a 600,000-square-foot hotel. Buildings along the new West Street corridor could equal or surpass this bulk, with the advantage that they could be built incrementally, as demand for office space increased. Most of the office space would be in a mix of high-rise and supertall buildings on and adjacent to ground zero, closer to transportation. Most of West Street, then, could be dedicated to housing.

The team also took into serious consideration how the plan would be financed. A new West Street corridor, augmented by so-called connector buildings south of the World Trade Center site, would add new land worth at least $2 billion. (That figure was provided by a developer who cooperated with the project; other experts speculate that the figure could be much higher.) This land could then be sold to developers, raising enough to cover the estimated $2 billion cost of building a platform over West Street. Or, if the platform were financed with state and federal dollars, the tax revenues could support a city-administered program for subsidizing developers who choose to invest in architecture rather than dull simulations of it.

South of the World Trade Center site, city planners envision the development of a robust residential community that might be known as South Greenwich. The study project builds on this idea by designating sites for residential buildings that would link this new neighborhood to West Street, Battery Park City and the river.

Some of the West Street projects will appear bizarre or perhaps self-indulgent to those unfamiliar with contemporary architecture. But this is not a lineup of architectural beauty contestants. All are conceptually rooted, in step with the level of architectural ambition in Vienna, Tokyo, Rotterdam and many other cities overseas. You have to look beneath the skin, for example, to appreciate the extraordinary elegance with which Charles Gwathmey has manipulated a single duplex unit into a variety of apartment layouts, which then generate the modeled facades.

Rem Koolhaas's project satirizes New York's nostalgic obsession with the Art Deco skyscraper by turning three of them on their heads. Peter Eisenman's three office towers can be viewed as a formalist exercise, for example, but they are also a critique of the Cartesian grid. The history of ideas is the context for architecture today.

Information is the second nature of the cosmopolitan age. Like grain, it requires cultivation. That process includes studying the why of things, the relationship between causes and effects. For the team, the violence of last year exposed the need for new instruments of cultivation, tools for interpreting raw data on world events. This is why this project devotes key space at ground zero to cultural institutes of learning, buildings designed by Richard Meier and Steven Holl.

The group also decided that the ground-zero site should specifically address the teeming infrastructure that lies below the city's surface. Rejecting the classical Grand Central Terminal notion of the ''big room,'' Rafael Viñoly designed a transportation hub that distributes the circulation space in a series of switchbacks and visually celebrates the industrial grandeur of converging rail systems.

The study does not address the design of a permanent memorial, apart from recommending alternative sites. Since there are no physical footprints remaining of the World Trade Center, we have proposed articulating them in a reconstructed landscape. Though the team agreed that ideas for a memorial must come from a public process, Maya Lin was asked for her thoughts on what might be done.

About the rebuilding of the towers themselves, the group was especially divided. In the end, it was decided that one proposal would be published -- for two towers, identical in size to the original ones, with one foot in ground zero and one foot outside it. Two shapes -- place holders for buildings that might occupy these sites -- were inspired by a variety of sources, including a sculpture by Isamu Noguchi, two airport control towers by Bartholomew Voorsanger, an office building by Frank Gehry, a conceptual design for ground zero by Richard Dattner and a pair of candlesticks of unidentified authorship. The idea was to present an ''unauthored'' symbol, an image of collective imagination. The symbolism is mutable: people can project a variety of meanings on these shapes, and they are all equally valid. For me, they signify resilience and the civilizing conversion of aggression into desire.

Finally, though the team did not fully endorse this idea, we present David Rockwell's rendering of a giant cybertheater over the New York Stock Exchange, which he calls the Hall of Risk. It is designed to educate the public about the social trade-offs caused by modernization. Adjacent to it, Guy Nordenson and Henry Cobb have designed an elegant broadcast tower that they fancifully imagine as the tallest structure in the world. Rather than shying away from ambition, this project embraces it with all its might.

Hospitality toward strangers . . . insistence on excellence. The urban historian Bonnie Menes Kahn has identified these two qualities as the indispensible cornerstones of cosmopolitan life. Judged by this standard, New York may be the most cosmopolitan city ever built. The diversity of our population and the relative sophistication of our cultural appetites still generate a magnetic energy unsurpassed by other great cities. We are one great polyglot aspirational surge.

Our architecture, however, no longer reflects this cosmopolitan spirit. In fact, our buildings have turned it upside down -- into a rage for dreariness and provinciality, an intolerance for the progressive ideas that have regenerated many cityscapes overseas. It is fair to say that in appearance and intention, New York's architecture has adhered to a viciously anticosmopolitan program. The architectural study presented here is meant to turn back these forces.

If you don't like the images, check out the concepts. You might dislike them too. But at least you'll gain a sense of architecture as an art of connecting dots. In this study, meaning is derived less from individual projects than from the relationships between them.

This is a work in progress. The publication deadline did not allow the team adequate time to focus on a number of critical issues, including sustainable design, transit links to regional airports, the elaborated design of an underground retail complex and the specific design of parks and a memorial promenade along West Street. Modernity, the philosopher Jurgen Habermas once wrote, is an incomplete project. So is New York.

Herbert Muschamp is the architecture critic of The Times.

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Front Page News; News/Current Events; US: New York
KEYWORDS: groundzero; wtc
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1 posted on 09/07/2002 3:17:06 PM PDT by finnman69
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To: finnman69

There is an interactive link from the article to a flashmedia presentation that has all the designs.
2 posted on 09/07/2002 3:24:03 PM PDT by finnman69
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To: finnman69
I don't think buildings higher than about 50 stories are safe. The fire fighters simply can't get up that high in time. Plus, all such buildings should have roof evacuation procedures, and standby helos, as LA does.
3 posted on 09/07/2002 3:50:40 PM PDT by Torie
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To: finnman69
Having viewed the entire presentation I am appalled.

The World Trade Towers were about COMMERCE... the give and take of products, ideas, services in exchange for profit. Yet almost all of the ideas I keep seeing, these included, seem to forget that.

Museums, study centers, peace forums, memorials, all are not representative of what went on in the Towers and what the victims were all about... which was LIVING, EARNING, PRODUCING.

What I see is that these people are jumping on the tragedy to forward a SOCIALIST ideal... not a CAPITALIST ideal.

What is needed here is a "finger" in the terrorists' eyes approach... build a BIGGER and BETTER monument to TRADE. Feature throughout the project 2800+ areas of rememberance for the BUSINESS PEOPLE and their customers who died under attack from people who cannot produce anything but destruction and heartache. Make these areas PERSONAL... describing what each person did, who they were, how they made the world better, and how we are the lesser for their untimely deaths.

Make this NEW World Trade Center a magnificent monument to the benefits of Capitalism and of merits people seeking their own advancement that advances everyone's standard of living.

We don't need another park. We don't need another memorial that will fade and be forgotten when the world moves on.

Instead build a reminder that inspires and shines a light on the world of what is GOOD and EXCELLENT in achievement.

Stick a finger in their eyes.
4 posted on 09/07/2002 3:53:06 PM PDT by Swordmaker
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To: Torie
Ever hear of the Empire State building, built in 1933, or the Sears Tower? Sheesh.
5 posted on 09/07/2002 3:57:27 PM PDT by Cobra64
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To: Cobra64
They haven't caught fire yet on the higher stories.
6 posted on 09/07/2002 3:58:21 PM PDT by Torie
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To: finnman69
I say rebuild, give the terrorists a message that says we will not be intimadated.
7 posted on 09/07/2002 4:20:11 PM PDT by Commander8
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To: Commander8
I say rebuild, give the terrorists a message that says we will not be intimadated.

I agree. And as one radio comentator I heard have First Union bank rent the top floors of each tower with one initial on each tower - facing EAST.

8 posted on 09/07/2002 4:26:24 PM PDT by Gabz
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To: Torie
The Empire State Building was built 70 years ago. I live in New York and worked in a building adjoining the World Trade Center. It came down as a result of being crushed by debris from the North tower. Do you people in CA ever THINK?
9 posted on 09/07/2002 4:38:22 PM PDT by Cobra64
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To: finnman69
Requires registration. I wouldn't register my last BM with the NY Times.
10 posted on 09/07/2002 4:39:09 PM PDT by Musket
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To: Cobra64
Do you people in CA ever THINK?

Only when we are on drugs or in a state of sexual agitation.

As to tall buildings, I don't really see the relevance of commenting on how they destroy other buildings when they come down.

11 posted on 09/07/2002 4:40:49 PM PDT by Torie
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To: finnman69
Nearly every design I've seen for the WTC site is impractical, meek, and UGLY. Mr. Muschamp's brainstorm has resulted in a raw TV transmitter tower and two high-tech avant-garde bowling pins. It should be trashed more quickly than copies of the Times Magazine.

Face it, we're well beyond the time when William van Alen could pull out the spire of the Chrysler Building literally from within, like a giant magician. If our pop culture and the remnants of our serious culture were mute after September 11, what hope do we have in our trend-following hack architects?

12 posted on 09/07/2002 4:50:02 PM PDT by GeneD
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To: Torie
"They haven't caught fire yet on the higher stories."

Again, the famous Torie, expostulates on something he knows nothing about... or at least not enough...

"At 9:49 a.m., on July 28, 1945, a ten-ton, B-25 bomber smashed into the north side of the Empire State Building. The majority of the plane hit the 79th floor, creating a hole in the building eighteen feet wide and twenty feet high. The plane's high-octane fuel exploded, hurtling flames down the side of the building and inside through hallways and stairwells all the way down to the 75th floor."

"The plane crash killed 14 people (11 office workers and the three crewmen) plus injured 26 others. Though the integrity of the Empire State Building was not affected, the cost of the damage done by the crash was $1 million."

13 posted on 09/07/2002 4:51:13 PM PDT by Swordmaker
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To: Swordmaker
Well you can park your office on the 100th floor. I shall not.
14 posted on 09/07/2002 4:53:33 PM PDT by Torie
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To: Torie
"Well you can park your office on the 100th floor. I shall not. "

Actually, I would prefer the 200th floor!

15 posted on 09/07/2002 4:54:51 PM PDT by Swordmaker
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To: finnman69
Extra-added attraction: Martin Fuller, The New Republic's architecture critic, calls Herbert Muschamp an "erratic and ethically challenged architecture critic." I don't know why he wrote that, but I'm not surprised with the paper that gave us Walter Duranty.
16 posted on 09/07/2002 4:56:29 PM PDT by GeneD
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To: Swordmaker
Dream the dreams. How was the fire put out in 1945 in the Empire State Building?
17 posted on 09/07/2002 4:56:49 PM PDT by Torie
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To: GeneD
"Nearly every design I've seen for the WTC site is impractical, meek, and UGLY. Mr. Muschamp's brainstorm has resulted in a raw TV transmitter tower and two high-tech avant-garde bowling pins. It should be trashed more quickly than copies of the Times Magazine."

When I was watching and listening to the twaddle that represents his approach, I was thinking of Ayn Rand's "The Fountainhead" and the results of architecture by committee...

18 posted on 09/07/2002 4:57:16 PM PDT by Swordmaker
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To: All
I got his name wrong; it's Martin Filler.
19 posted on 09/07/2002 4:57:16 PM PDT by GeneD
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To: Swordmaker
In memory of The World Trade Center towers….

Rebuild Now, Rebuild Tall
[From Ayn Rand's novel The Fountainhead,
the final meeting of Howard Roark and Gail Wynand.]

"Please listen carefully, Mr. Roark…. I wish to undertake the construction of the Wynand Building at once. I wish it to be the tallest structure of the city…..

"If you consider the behavior of the world at present and the disaster toward which it is moving you might find the undertaking preposterous. The age of the skyscraper is gone. This is the age of the housing project. Which is always a prelude to the age of the cave. But you are not afraid of a gesture against the whole world. This will be the last skyscraper ever built in New York. It is proper that it should be so. The last achievement of man on earth before mankind destroys itself."

"Mankind will never destroy itself, Mr. Wynand. Nor should it think of itself as destroyed. Not so long as it does things such as this."

"As what?"

"As the Wynand Building…."

"That is up to you…. I told you once that this building was to be a monument to my life. There is nothing to commemorate now. The Wynand Building will have nothing-except what you give it."

He rose to his feet, indicating that the interview was ended. Roark got up and inclined his head in parting. He held his head down a moment longer than a formal bow required.

At the door he stopped and turned. Wynand stood behind his desk without moving. They looked at each other.

Wynand said:

"Build it as a monument to that spirit which is yours … and could have been mine."

* * *

On a spring day, eighteen months later, Dominique walked to the construction site of the Wynand Building.

She looked at the skyscrapers of the city. They rose from unexpected spots, out of the low roof lines. They had a kind of startling suddenness, as if they had sprung up the second before she saw them and she had caught the last thrust of the motion; as if, were she to turn away and look again fast enough, she would catch them in the act of springing.

She turned a corner of Hell's Kitchen and came to the vast cleared tract.

Machines were crawling over the torn earth, grading the future park. From its center, the skeleton of the Wynand Building rose, completed, to the sky. The top part of the frame still hung naked, an intercrossed cage of steel. Glass and masonry had followed its rise, covering the rest of the long streak slashed through space.

She thought: They say the heart of the earth is made of fire. It is held imprisoned and silent. But at times it breaks through the clay, the iron, the granite, and shoots out to freedom. Then it becomes a thing like this….

She stopped. She saw an object she had never noticed before. The sight was like the touch of a hand on her forehead, the hand of one of those figures of legend who had the power to heal. She had not known Henry Cameron and she had not heard him say it, but what she felt now was as if she were hearing it: "And I know that if you carry these words through to the end, it will be a victory, Howard, not just for you but for something that should win, that moves the world-and never wins acknowledgement. It will vindicate so many who have fallen before you, who have suffered as you will suffer."

She saw, on the fence surrounding New York's greatest building, a small tin plate bearing the words:

"Howard Roark, Architect"

20 posted on 09/07/2002 5:10:42 PM PDT by RJCogburn
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