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View Full Version : Appraisals of Ground Zero Designs - NY Times



JMGarcia
January 9th, 2003, 09:35 AM
By JULIE V. IOVINE


A standing-room-only crowd of architects broke into spontaneous applause twice on Tuesday night at a forum and panel discussion on design proposals for the World Trade Center site.

The first round erupted when Richard Kahan, the former chief executive of the Battery Park City Authority, said that it was "ethically, morally and, possibly, illegally wrong for the Port Authority and a developer to be calling the shots" about what will be built at ground zero.

The second outburst came when Peter Eisenman, a member of one of the New York teams that submitted a design, said, "It doesn't matter a damn, Frank Gehry, that we were paid only $40,000."

Mr. Eisenman was referring to the amount paid to each competing team by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation to cover costs, which Mr. Gehry, who designed the Guggenheim Bilbao museum in Spain, had characterized in an interview in The New York Times Magazine this month as demeaning to serious architects. Mr. Gehry was not at the event.

(One panelist, Paul Goldberger, the architecture critic for The New Yorker and formerly a critic for The Times, estimated that $40,000 covered little more than two hours of work on the competition.)

The event, sponsored by Architectural Record magazine, took place in the McGraw-Hill Building's 350-seat auditorium, where some notable architects had to sit on the stairs. The first row was reserved for the competition's participants, including Richard Meier, Charles Gwathmey, Rafael Viñoly, Barbara Littenberg and Marilyn Jordan Taylor. The Europe-based architects Daniel Libeskind and Sir Norman Foster were not present.

The four panelists, in addition to Mr. Goldberger and Mr. Kahan, were Bernard Tschumi, dean of the architecture school at Columbia University, and Craig Whitaker, an architect and planner.

A full moment of complete silence elapsed when Robert Ivy, the editor in chief of Architectural Record and the panel's moderator, asked panelists if they thought there was one standout design.

Instead of choosing a favorite, Mr. Tschumi suggested that ideas be extracted rather than literally adopted. For instance, the scheme presented by the New York-centric team of Mr. Meier, Mr. Eisenman, Mr. Gwathmey and Steven Holl (who was not present), which was quickly dubbed a tick-tack-toe board by the news media because of its gridlike form, was too monumental and iconic to be effective, Mr. Tschumi said, but its notion of a tall building with alternating solids and voids was well worth considering.

Panelists and architects were at a loss as to how the development corporation would proceed with its intention to cull the best ideas from the teams' nine plans. Mr. Tschumi said that one approach might be to make a collage of elements taken from different schemes.

The competing architects were each invited to address the audience, and many did, taking the opportunity to elaborate on their plans or simply to marvel at the chance to participate in a historic moment for New York architecture.

Ms. Littenberg, whose firm entered an urban design inspired by Rockefeller Center that has been severely criticized for being too nostalgic, initially refused to speak, but changed her mind. "I came expecting a fight," Ms. Littenberg said. "Instead, everyone is so warm and fuzzy and self-congratulatory it distresses me."

One of the few to take aim at the designs themselves, Ms. Littenberg cautioned against what she found to be a total disregard for human scale in most of the other ideas. "A lot of these designs engage in gigantism," she said. "That kind of arrogant thinking led to the construction of the first towers."

Many architects suggested that some significant questions surrounding the redevelopment went unresolved: How should the site be developed? Who is the client? What comes next? Mr. Kahan tried to describe a way that visionary architecture could turn into reality. "We need a patron," he said. But in the apparent absence of a political power broker and cultural visionary with the stature of a John V. Lindsay or a Nelson A. Rockefeller, he added "the mayor has to take over the process."

John Whitehead, chairman of the development corporation, was offered the chance to speak, but declined. Instead, Andrew Winters, the director of design and development for the corporation, noted that 50,000 people had visited the Winter Garden, where all nine proposals were being displayed through Feb. 2. About 3,000 comment cards had been dropped into a suggestion box, and millions of people had visited the development corporation's Web site, www.RenewNYC.com.

What happens "will be made by listening to the public," he said, adding, "The public will make the difference."

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Bravo to Richard Kahan and Peter Eisenman.

Although I like the street layouts from Littenberg, she once again shows that she just doesn't get it architecturally.

NYguy
January 9th, 2003, 09:56 AM
The first round erupted when Richard Kahan, the former chief executive of the Battery Park City Authority, said that it was "ethically, morally and, possibly, illegally wrong for the Port Authority and a developer to be calling the shots" about what will be built at ground zero.

The second outburst came when Peter Eisenman, a member of one of the New York teams that submitted a design, said, "It doesn't matter a damn, Frank Gehry, that we were paid only $40,000."

The Port Authority owns the land. *I see absolutely nothing wrong with them calling the shots on what gets built there. *I do applaud Eisenman....

NYguy
January 9th, 2003, 09:57 AM
One of the few to take aim at the designs themselves, Ms. Littenberg cautioned against what she found to be a total disregard for human scale in most of the other ideas. "A lot of these designs engage in gigantism," she said. "That kind of arrogant thinking led to the construction of the first towers."

She should show her face at the public forum, so she can be justly booed out of the room....

NYguy
January 9th, 2003, 10:20 AM
Here's more public response to the plans...
http://real.ny1.com:8080/ramgen/real3/0003B9D1_030108_203403hi.rm
http://real.ny1.com:8080/ramgen/real3/0003B9D1_030108_203403lo.rm

ZippyTheChimp
January 9th, 2003, 11:43 AM
The Port Authority owns the land. *I see absolutely nothing wrong with them calling the shots on what gets built there.
Not quite as clear-cut as that. The PA is not a private entity.
It's a self-sustaining agency. The 12 commisioners (unsalaried) are appointed (6 each) by the goverors of New York and New Jersey. The governors have total veto control over their actions. By self-sustaining I mean they get financing from airport revenues, tolls, etc, rather than government funding.

JMGarcia
January 9th, 2003, 11:46 AM
The Port Authority owns the land. *I see absolutely nothing wrong with them calling the shots on what gets built there.

I have absolutely no faith that, if left to their own devices, the PA will properly restore the skyline as was proven by their original plans. They should certainly be part of the decision making process but should certainly not be allowed to call the shots.

If the PA really wants to call the shots (or any group does for that matter) they simply need to announce a large memorial area set aside for a competition and their intention of building 2 110 story towers. Popular opinion will make them unstoppable.

The fact that everyone involved knows this and yet no one has done it is the best evidence there can be that none of them should be allowed to call the shots.

ZippyTheChimp
January 9th, 2003, 12:32 PM
Historically, the PA has not been comfortable in the public eye. The only person that could logically step forward and speak for the agency is Pataki, and seems unwilling to jump in.

In my opinion, the PA should do what it does best, develop the transportation infrastructure. PATH, intermodal center, connections to MTA transit center, bus and truck access and parking, pedestrian movement.

Agglomeration
January 9th, 2003, 12:44 PM
Hmmm, I wonder where Monica Iken, Lee Ielpi, and Sally Blowhard were during that meeting. These evildoers must be planning to bypass this debate process and hijack the Ground Zero area for themselves even from the PA.

NYatKNIGHT
January 9th, 2003, 12:58 PM
...some significant questions surrounding the redevelopment went unresolved: How should the site be developed? Who is the client? What comes next?Without any direction, who is making these decisions? No wonder these victims families hold so much sway, there's no one who feels they can tell them to shut the hell up.

NYguy
January 9th, 2003, 06:46 PM
The reason the development process is in the big mess that it's in now is that the PA, which does own the land and the train station beneath it, hasn't been firm enough on what it wants to develop on that site. *Who else is going to decide?

Too many voices have been allowed to hijack the process. *As a result, you have basically no consensus, and too many contradicting ideas for what should go there. *The agency should have set not only the location, but the height and size of the buildings. *Then let the architects design them.

I don't understand all the fuss about the memorial, since that process is just beginning. *What was there to complain about?

(Edited by NYguy at 5:47 pm on Jan. 9, 2003)

JMGarcia
January 9th, 2003, 07:17 PM
Do you think that if the PA was allowed to set the heights that they would build as tall or taller than the original twin towers?

Hopefully we'll find out sooner rather than later. :)

As far as the too many cooks spoiling the broth goes, I agree completely. But a lot of people ranting and yelling is the NY way isn't it. ;)

dbhstockton
January 9th, 2003, 07:38 PM
I expect the unveiling of the PA's plan to be somewhat anticlimactic. *As far as I know, the PA planning interests lie only in the site plan and infrastructure. *While it will have some impact on what is built, the architecture and hight of what will be built will remain flexible.

As for the victim's families, it's hard to say what the PA will do. *The PA lost a lot of people in the WTC, so there are probably strong emotions amung the decisionmakers. *Meanwhile, they've been quietly building on the sacred "footprint" (another catchword like "ground zero" which I think conventionalizes and over-simplifies the tragedy) of the south tower for months now, restoring PATH service.
I do have to give them, and the LMDC, some credit. *The people who work for these companies are not living in caves. *Unless they are monumentally arrogant and idiotic, they will be attempting to appeal to what they see as the public's desire for the WTC site. *The fact that we got a second round of designs after the debacle in July, and that the PA changed its guidelines after that, *shows that they are listening. *As other people here have said, the problem is that there is no overwhelming opinion to listen to. *There is no consensus anywhere, other than that these latest designs are much more interesting and creative than the last ones.

TLOZ Link5
January 10th, 2003, 04:46 PM
I agree completely, Stockton.