View Full Version : Height debated for WTC site

January 12th, 2003, 06:22 PM
NY Times...

Building Height Debated for WTC Site

NEW YORK (AP) -- Replacing the fallen World Trade Center towers with the world's tallest building would demonstrate courage. Or would it be hubris?

Five of the nine designs for a rebuilt trade center propose structures that would surpass Malaysia's 1,483-foot Petronas Twin Towers as the tallest in the world. The trade center towers themselves were once the world's tallest at 110 stories each, or 1,350 feet.

A public hearing is set for Monday to gather public opinion on the designs. A final plan is to be selected in the next few weeks.

Some people believe the new structure must be a dramatic statement.

"Failing to rebuild full scale is what paints a bull's-eye on other landmarks,'' said Louis Epstein, founder of the World Trade Center Restoration Movement. *"It emboldens the terrorists to do more.''

Beverly Willis, director of the Architecture Research Institute and a founder of a community group called Rebuild Downtown Our Town, agrees that the ``wound'' in New York's skyline should be repaired with something tall and distinctive.

However, she said, creating the world's tallest building without regard to the neighborhood *"just seems to be not only impractical, but ostentatious and generally in bad taste.''

The nine designs by seven teams of architects were commissioned by the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which together will choose one plan by next month.

While no one is suggesting the new construction will faithfully reproduce any of the models, officials will base their plans on one of the designs.

Some, like Norman Foster's *"kissing towers,'' offer office buildings taller than the twin towers destroyed in the Sept. 11, 2001, attack.

Others would consist of airy structures that invoke the towers without replicating them.

Daniel Libeskind's design includes a spire with the symbolically significant height of 1,776 feet, but only the first 70 stories of his building would house offices.

Above the office level, tourists could visit his ``gardens of the world,'' Libeskind said.

"It's like going to the high point of the Eiffel Tower,'' he said. "You don't go there for more than a few minutes.''

Greg Lynn, whose United Architects presented a design that combines five buildings into one crystalline structure, described a system of stairways connected every 30 floors by areas where people also could move horizontally.

"From any point in the building you have literally thousands of ways to get down to the ground, so it's a very safe complex,'' Lynn said.

His team's proposal also includes a 1,620-foot tower.

But if they build it, will anybody come?

Last August, a New York Times/CBS poll found that 53 percent of New Yorkers would not want to work in an upper floor of any new building at the trade center site. Fifty-nine percent said that whatever is built at the site should not be as tall as the towers it replaces.

That could change in the decade it will take to build the new offices.

"By that time, I believe all of the safety concerns will have been addressed,'' said Meyer Feig, who heads the World Trade Center Tenants Association.

Feig, who ran a recruiting firm in the trade center's south tower, said his group consists of about 130 smaller tenants from the towers. Most group members who responded to a recent survey said they wanted to see at least a 110-story building on the site.

"It makes the statement that we may have been attacked, but we'll rebuild and come back stronger than ever,'' Feig said.

January 12th, 2003, 11:39 PM
New Yorkers look to plans for fractured skyline

Public hearings open this week for trade center proposals

By Bryan Long
Sunday, January 12, 2003 Posted: 10:33 PM EST (0333 GMT)

NEW YORK (CNN) -- In the aftermath of the destruction of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, many building experts predicted the death of the skyscraper.

Amid the raw emotion of those days, Larry Silverstein, leaseholder of the World Trade Center's land, said he wanted the destroyed twin towers rebuilt, in defiance of the terrorists who brought them down.

At the time, many winced at the thought and suggested more modest proposals. Some even predicted the death of skyscrapers as tall as the 110-story twin towers, which had been the tallest buildings in the world at the time of their construction in the early 1970s, saying people would be concerned about their vulnerability to terrorist attacks.

Yet in the ensuing months, it became clear that the skyscraper was not dead. People continued to go to work in high-rises, and developers continued to build tall buildings around the globe. And as time has passed, the ideas of what can be built on the trade center site have gone from modest to grandiose.

This week, New Yorkers will debate nine proposals for what to build on the World Trade Center site. Four of them call for again building the world's tallest building, taller even than the destroyed towers.

The public is paying close attention. More than 6 million visitors have viewed the proposals on the Web site of the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. the agency overseeing the redevelopment and another 70,000 have seen the proposals in person. The debate is bound to be one of the largest architectural critiques ever.

"New York has always been the great vertical metropolis," explains Carol Willis, director and founder of the city's Skyscraper Museum. "New York requires -- it desires -- to see something recognizable world-wide."

On Monday and Tuesday nights, city residents are to debate the merits of the nine new proposals, which stand in stark contrast to a previous set of plans that New Yorkers roundly panned. A winner is expected to be chosen by the end of February.

The old proposals called for office towers ranging from 32 to 85 stories modest heights by Manhattan standards set in part by the now-gone twin towers.

The new proposals are more ambitious. In addition to featuring much taller buildings, most of the new plans call for 8 to 10 million square feet of commercial space -- less than the 11 million destroyed -- plus a museum and a transit station. Three proposals feature twin towers, and others involve several connected buildings.

It remains to be seen whether New Yorkers will embrace any of the new proposals as suitable replacements.

Safety a lasting concern
In addition to debate over the shape, size and scope of the building plans, there will likely be concerns voiced about safety. The World Trade Center was twice targeted by terrorists, and there's no reason to believe the structures that replace the twin towers wouldn't also be targets.

Ron Klemencic, chairman of the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, an international group organized to educate professional planners, said concerns over whatever buildings go up on the site will never go away.

"They're a target forever," said Klemencic, who is also president of the Seattle, Washington-based engineering firm Skilling Ward Magnusson Barkshire.

The debate over rebuilding is part of a natural evolution and healing process, said Howard Decker, chief curator of the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C.

"It takes time to assimilate tragedies of the proportion of September 11," Decker said. "It takes time to decide how to build back Lower Manhattan."

Still, the question on many people's mind is whether the buildings can be safe.

Klemencic, whose firm engineered the twin towers, says safety is not simply "about more bolts."

Since September 11, he has compiled more than 200 improvements meant to make buildings safer. The council has published two guides.

But trying to engineer a safer building raises new problems. All the improvements aren't economically feasible. And then there are the terrorists themselves.

"No matter what you design for, [terrorists] can always make a bigger bomb," Klemencic said.

In fact, Klemencic and others believe the safety of high rises has been over-emphasized.

"Everybody's focused on tall buildings, but what about our stadiums, our mass transit systems?" Klemencic said. Just as the World Trade Center site will always be a target for terrorists, "so is the Washington Monument, so is the Brooklyn Bridge, so is the Golden Gate Bridge."

Decker of the National Building Museum noted that the other target of terrorism September 11 was the squat Pentagon. He said that shows that terrorists choose targets because of their symbolism, not their height.

Decker maintains that what happens to the World Trade Center site and how high New York's skyline rises will hinge on many criteria.

"The desire to build tall buildings is an old desire," he said. "The motivations for it are complicated. Commerce. Capitalism. Ego."

Those motivations will all influence the rebuilding at Ground Zero.

January 12th, 2003, 11:44 PM
New Issues as Hearings Address Rebuilding
NY Times

aving enticed New Yorkers to let their thoughts about the rebuilding of Lower Manhattan soar to new heights, rebuilding officials now face the far more difficult task of bringing the public discussion back down to earth.

At citywide public hearings today and tomorrow, officials will explain more details about each of the nine designs released last month for the World Trade Center site. In addition, they will discuss the process they are using to narrow those options to a single plan for redeveloping the site and creating a memorial to the victims of Sept. 11.

In seeking public guidance, officials hope to focus discussion on elements far different from those that have been at the center of much of the public debate so far. That debate has focused largely on which plans create the most appealing skyline, and whether there is a need for millions of square feet of new office space.

But what officials from the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey say they need now is comment on what one of them calls "the public realm" which plan provides the appropriate setting for a memorial, for a new railroad station and for a street system that will serve downtown.

"Those are the things that we can guarantee will move forward," the development corporation's vice president for planning, design and development, Alexander Garvin, said last week at a meeting of its advisory councils. "That public realm then becomes the armature around which the private sector is willing to build."

When the construction of the office buildings occurs is almost irrelevant, Mr. Garvin said.

"The public is responsible for the public realm, and we better get it up there as fast as possible," he said.

Complicating the issue is the fact that officials from the two agencies still do not agree on how to move ahead. Last week, Roland W. Betts, who oversees the site-planning committee for the development corporation's board, said that one of the nine new plans would be adopted as the basis for the project.

"Whatever plan survives is going to be subject to modifications," Mr. Betts said. "But it's far less likely that two plans would be combined. It's like combining two different artists whose style is completely different."

Port Authority officials are not so sure. An authority spokesman, Greg Trevor, said the agency still thought that the best idea might be to take elements of different site plans and combine them.

"That's part of what we're trying to determine," Mr. Trevor said.

All the discussion and debate is taking place under a short, arbitrary timeline. Both agencies have committed to reaching a decision by early next month, in part to allow work to proceed on underground structural support elements.

Some close followers of the process think that might be too soon.

Robert D. Yaro, president of the Regional Plan Association, a nonprofit research and advocacy group for the metropolitan region, said, "If decisions are made in the next month or two about the location of the infrastructure or the footings for office buildings, then we foreclose forever the possibility of changing what goes on on the surface of the site."

Rebuilding officials are still assessing the feasibility of the plans, including their costs, their engineering requirements and how they would affect traffic. In those respects, the designs vary widely.

For example, the plans set the memorial in several different locations, each of which raises issues about what goes above and beneath it. At least three plans by Foster & Partners, Studio Daniel Libeskind and United Architects call for the footprints of the twin towers to be preserved well below ground level.

Of the three, only Mr. Libeskind's plan calls for the excavation of the entire area within the giant retaining walls that keep groundwater out of the site. But the other two also call for large elements of the memorial to be underground, around the footprints.

That means the architects have to find other space for bus parking areas, mechanical systems for buildings, and other elements. Their solutions may require costly excavation of significant underground areas on the eastern portion of the site, as well as construction of additional retaining walls.

The architects were also supposed to provide for what Mr. Garvin calls "active street life" on and around the site, a requirement they treated quite differently. Mr. Garvin said that both the Skypark design by the Think group and the plan by Peterson/Littenberg Architecture, for example, offered "a great deal of street-level retail."

Several other plans did not make clear whether retail space would be above or below ground, so the architects have been asked to provide further details. The Bloomberg administration has said it prefers new retail development to be above ground to foster street life. But Westfield America, the Australian company that holds the rights to retail space on the site, is known to prefer enclosed space like that in the trade center's former underground concourse.

Though the site plan chosen in the coming weeks will not necessarily address how office buildings will look or when they will be built, the planners intend to set specifications on some details, including general heights, design guidelines that would be binding on any developer, and the parcels on which the buildings would sit.

Ultimately, the key to a successful design will be its flexibility, Mr. Garvin said.

"Can you adjust it, so that if the shadow on Greenwich Street goes all the way to the Brooklyn Bridge, do you destroy this scheme if you lower the building?" he said. "Or if you have a wall of buildings, can you break them up in some way without destroying the scheme?

"So it's not just: what is the impact of this going to be? It's: can this be adjusted without destroying the idea?"

January 13th, 2003, 12:32 AM
Rumors concering the demise of the skycraper have indeed, been greatly exaggerated! I need to know where these meetings are this week - I'll go and speak for all of us that don't feel like backing down to the terrorists, and who believe that New York needs skyscrapers for the 21st century; in design, safety, and functionality.

The 9 proposals were a great start, but what's next? All I hear about is how the LMDC and the PA are going to settle for mediocrity - look how the latter wants to mix and match different ideas from the plans. The RPA has it right, in that once the footings are set, we will basically be conformed as to what can be constructed. Not much that was constructed in New York's history was done by combination. Belmont had his subways, William Van Alen gave Walter Chrylser his trophy, and Roebling gave us the bridge that we love and hold so romantic to us. Why can't we learn from history, and why can't we do what's best for the city of tomorrow? The sites/times/formats of these meetings must be made public.

January 13th, 2003, 01:10 AM
JMGarcia posted a thread titled Decision time approaching: Public and private input, I believe *that it is on the second or third page, and I think that it has some of this info. *Give EM Hell!!

January 13th, 2003, 09:08 AM
Daily News editorial...

No room for ego at Ground Zero

Plans for the World Trade Center site, along with billions in federal redevelopment funds, are being put at risk. By what? Insider games and outsize egos. The squabbling must stop, and the real boss, the public, must speak up and be heard.

The infighting began last spring, when Alexander Garvin, the Lower Manhattan Development Corp.'s top planner, brewed a controversy over the awarding of the initial design contract. Of the six judges, only Garvin overwhelmingly favored one firm, Beyer Blinder Belle. But thanks to weighted voting, it won the contract.

Working alongside Garvin and with the firm of Peterson/Littenberg (which once employed him), Garvin's pick, Beyer, produced those six awful Ground Zero plans unveiled in July. Now, playing revisionist historian, Garvin has told The New Yorker magazine he hated those plans. Baloney. Garvin was the father of the six. He can't disown his children, no matter how ugly they are.

The proposals were met with resounding public rejection - and that should have been the end of all of them. But Garvin stayed on, as did Peterson/Littenberg.

When the next batch of nine plans was unveiled last month, eight had merit. The exception? The one from P/L, which was included even though that firm hadn't officially made it to the finals of the international design competition. Not surprisingly, P/L produced a plan that resembled the six flops.

Garvin's move to distance himself from the July fiasco was such a whopper that Lou Tomson, head of the LMDC, felt obliged to comment at an open meeting Thursday: "We're not here to write our own history before that history is done." He didn't mention Garvin by name. He didn't have to. Everyone understood the reference.

At that same meeting, architect Robert A.M. Stern was awarded a contract for more than $500,000 for streetscape plans. Stern is highly accomplished. He's also dean of Yale's architecture school. Which employs Prof. Garvin. Oops. Things are looking a little too cozy.

There's more. Architect Stan Eckstut, iced out by Garvin in favor of Beyer Blinder Belle, has found a way back into Ground Zero. He's preparing a plan for the Port Authority. In secret. Maybe Eckstut will produce something good. Maybe, as is more likely, he'll accede to the PA's insatiable appetite for 11 million square feet of office space, 600,000 square feet of retail and an 800-room hotel.

Garvin claims he'll mesh Eckstut's design with whatever is finally chosen for the site. Forget it. Garvin's lapses have disqualified him from any further involvement in this critical project. His big ego alone could stall things and give the feds an opportunity to reconsider billions in pledges.

Better that people like Tomson and key board member Roland Betts listen to the public and set the process straight. There's an open forum tonight from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. at Pace University (Spruce and Gold Sts.). A perfect opportunity to start.

January 13th, 2003, 09:42 AM
from the Times' article...

Though the site plan chosen in the coming weeks will not necessarily address how office buildings will look or when they will be built, the planners intend to set specifications on some details, including general heights, design guidelines that would be binding on any developer, and the parcels on which the buildings would sit.

General heights mean the ultimate hight of the skyscrapers may not be known for a year or more, although we'll have some idea of the size. *Likewise, the design guideines should give some indication of the design. *Still a lot to be decided...

January 13th, 2003, 12:35 PM
This means two things to me....

1. The public pressure will need to be kept up for an extended period of time (unitl an actual building is finalized) so that they won't start back-sliding on height.

2. It doesn't really make a difference what plan is chosen to the ultimate height. They could pick anybody's street layout/site plan and then say we'll put a building of "X" height on it.

January 13th, 2003, 02:09 PM
Designs soar, critics fall flat

Tuesday, January 7th, 2003

If you build it, they will come. If you build a scale model of it, they will chew your ear off.
That's what's happening vis--vis the nine potential designs for the World Trade Center site: a whole lotta griping going on when we should be just plain grateful.

At first, when these plans were unveiled Dec. 18, the city gasped with amazement. Here, at last, was the grandeur we'd been longing for! Towers of culture and gardens in the sky! Reflecting pools and vast public plazas! What a contrast to the refrigerator-box architecture unveiled by the Port Authority last summer!

But soon the professional party poopers - rival architects, city planners and, yes, columnists - started curbing the city's enthusiasm. Don't expect any of these plans to actually get built, they scoffed. No project gets green-lighted until the developers put down dough, and those guys could choose another plan entirely.

Besides, the critics continued, these designs are too big, too tall, too weird. And who needs all that office space anyway? It's an exercise in fantasy. The public should not get its hopes up.

But getting our hopes up is exactly what we're doing. And great things can come of that.

At the World Financial Center, where the scale models are on display daily through Feb. 2, the crowd was almost levitating with excitement.

"I just like the unconventionalness," said James Chesek, an airport security employee visiting the displays with his brother.

"I love that one," said Dennis Salvador, a maintenance engineer at the financial center, pointing to the zigzagging "kissing towers" by Foster and Partners. He recalled the pre-9/11 fun he'd always had watching tourists lie down to photograph the twin towers. He wants to see towers rising again.

So did firefighters visiting the exhibit. "New York is the center of the world, and not having the tallest building anymore is demeaning," said one. He'd like to see the giant towers designed by the Think team get built.

As they slowly worked their way through the exhibit, the visitors pointed and scribbled notes - many even read the blurbs. Best of all, they talked to one another, because this was not some stuffy museum show, but the very stuff of our future.

"The public is what made this happen," said Barbara Gallucci, an artist who lives 10 blocks from Ground Zero. If dismayed New Yorkers had not decried the first set of plans, she believes, "We would have ended up with a little park with a bronze statue of firemen and policemen."

So will any of these models end up as The One? Maybe not precisely as planned - or maybe not at all. But their sheer boldness has ignited the public's thirst for both design and democracy.

"It's showing the importance of architecture. Maybe people will be more demanding of the next office building," said James Cava, a construction executive up from Washington.

Maybe they'll be more demanding of their elected officials, too. "It all depends how loud we scream," said Chesek, convinced that the lesson we've learned this time around is: Speak up!

Whether or not any of these towers reach the sky, they already have uplifted our city.

E-mail: lskenazy@edit.nydailynews.com

January 14th, 2003, 08:57 AM
Quote: from JMGarcia on 12:35 pm on Jan. 13, 2003
This means two things to me....

2. It doesn't really make a difference what plan is chosen to the ultimate height. They could pick anybody's street layout/site plan and then say we'll put a building of "X" height on it.

I disagree on that one. *If there is overall more support for one of the smaller buildings, that would send the wrong message to the PA, at a time when guidelines are being made and set.

January 14th, 2003, 11:55 AM
I wasn't saying anything about public support for any of the plans. Everyone should support the features they like in the specific plans.

My point was that no matter which one the LMDC/PA picks, whether it was a popular plan or not, there will still be the possibility of a major skyline addition.

For instance, say they pick the Peterson/Littenberg or Meier plan. If there is continued pressure for a better skyline element it may come about. On the other hand, it is also possible that the buildings to be built won't even be has high as they are in the initial proposal. Even UA had 2 height options in their plan.


This is true for all the plans in my opinion. While public support for Foster will yet again send the message that the public wants a super tower, just because it is or isn't picked doesn't mean that a super tower will or won't be built.

TLOZ Link5
January 15th, 2003, 10:58 AM
I wouldn't be against having the WTB at Ground Zero; at the very least, a new tallest in New York would be sufficient.