View Full Version : Recent interviews with the architects

February 12th, 2003, 07:08 PM
Interviews with Daniel Libeskind and Fred Schwartz (THINK) from Downtown Express

http://www.zwire.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=7029386&BRD=1841&PAG=461&dept_id=1 12709&rfi=6

February 12th, 2003, 07:50 PM
Some interesting quotes here...

From Libeskind

He says all of the changes will be addressed and in particular, it is not necessary to keep the bathtub - which protects the site from the Hudson River - exposed 70 feet below street level.
"I don't think it depends on some object numbers - 70 feet, 30 feet.... That's really an evolution of design. That's how all designs develop. You don't just present a design and say, 'take it or leave it.' ''

He says making the tower 1,776-feet tall insures that the building's height will always have meaning.

"It's not a kitsch number, as some people think," he said. "It's a real number. It's not about the highest thing in the world that will be surpassed tomorrow in Beijing or Singapore. It's about a number that has a significance that will not be surpassed."

The building's antenna pays homage to Lady Liberty's torch and he said by putting gardens on top, it answers the concerns raised most forcefully, by Silverstein. He said the building's floorplate could be small and if the public's appetite for being up high changed, the gardens could be replaced with restaurants or perhaps something else.

"I didn't think people will necessarily want to work at that height at that point, nor will anybody right now build that kind of tower," he said. "But I wanted to restore the skyline with something that is truly fantastic and dramatic and has a big impact on the skyline and something that is related to the Statue of Liberty."

Libeskind's plan puts a museum and cultural center between the memorial and the rest of the site and many have praised the idea as creating an effective bridge. One naysayer is The New York Times architectural critic, Herbert Muschamp, who favors the THINK plan. He thinks Libeskind's scheme is too heavily influenced by religious symbolism.

From Schwartz of THINK

He said his group has answered an L.M.D.C. suggestion by putting more of the retail space at street level, although he did not go into specifics. "These are things we were doing anyway that just make sense," Schwartz said.

The development corporation has also asked the team to improve the connections between the subway and commuter lines in the transit center and to look at making changes to the Battery Park City connections at West St. THINK has proposed pedestrian bridges over West St., but Schwartz did not say if the adjustment request means that officials are looking to build a short bypass tunnel near the site, which is one of the options being considered.

He said one of the advantages of the overall plan is that the towers would be built right away with the street grid, transit center, and memorial site. "It is the only project that in phase one realizes the skyline," he said, "that returns the skyline to our city and leaves open space and leaves the possibility of culture, and then has the city develop block by block as it always does."

Schwartz said the 1,600-foot lattice towers answer Silverstein's concerns about tall buildings because they are "indestructible." Most of their interior would be open space so even if a plane crashed into them, he thinks they would remain standing because the fuel would have little material to burn.

He explained why he thought the buildings are safe: "This is not a target. You're not going to target creativity, art, music, theater and life - and also they're indestructible...They're engineered so they can't fail anyplace. If something hits, they have redundancy and reinforcement where it can't fall."

Schwartz says the lattice is reminiscent of the Twin Towers without being a replica, and serves to recapture the buildings' beauty. "I loved their sculptural quality," he said. "I looked at them from my window, I walked out of my front door, and they were there. From my office, they were there.... I loved the way the light would change.

"What I also loved, what I thought was really incredible, was the space between them - that incredible slot of space between them. I think these will have the memory of something in the skyline."

Schwartz said they have not been asked yet to reduce the size, although it remains a possibility.

Schwartz proposes a 9/11 museum connecting the two towers. New York/New Visions, a group of architects and planners studying W.T.C. plans, said THINK's idea to put the museum at the exact height where the planes struck is "heavy-handed and insensitive," but Schwartz said that was just one possibility for placement and the museum could be anywhere.

February 13th, 2003, 10:33 AM
February 13, 2003
This Stop, 65th Floor, Rain Forest

WHAT is a sky garden anyway? I've been wondering this for two months, considering the skyscrapers with celestial Gardens of Babylon in the two competing proposals for the World Trade Center site. It's an exhilarating vision: drawing plants up through buildings — indoor atriums, outdoor terraces, roof gardens on the 110th floor — as if the parks down below were moving up the escalators, not only to beautify our lives but also to help clean and cool the air.

Daniel Libeskind's Gardens of the World proposal envisions a series of mini ecosystems — tropical rain forest, savannah, desert, alpine tundra — stacked vertically near the top of a 1,776-foot-high tower. You could take an elevator to the 65th floor and get out in, say, a rain forest. You could walk up the stairs to a terrace that looks down on palm trees and banana plants. Take another elevator and this time you are walking through the high grasses of a savannah.


"The sky will be home again to a towering spire of the Gardens of the World," Mr. Libeskind said when he presented his proposal in December at the Winter Garden of the World Financial Center. "Why gardens? Because gardens are a constant affirmation of life."

The other plan, the Think team's World Cultural Center, imagines two memorial platforms on the top of two latticelike towers that rise 1,300 feet above the footprints of the towers that collapsed on Sept. 11.

"We imagine the memorial to be parklike, with these incredible vistas, where you can see forever," said Frederic Schwartz, one of the architects on the Think team. The one-acre parks would be on the 110th floors, the exact height of the original towers.

Both semifinalist teams feature sky gardens that are symbolic of rising above loss yet deeply connected to the earth. Their vertical cities interweave plants and architecture. The message is that if we must build up in our cities to save precious space, then we will carry our gardens with us.

Whichever design is chosen by the end of the month, it promises a new way of thinking about gardens and space. "We feel the area above the highest part of the building is about the world," George Hargreaves, the landscape architect working with Mr. Libeskind, said. "New York is a global city. You can't isolate it from other countries."

Those Gardens of the World, he said, would be free public spaces filled not with specimens from any specific place on earth but rather collections illustrating what a desert, say, in the Southwest, has in common with one in Africa; or a tropical forest in Malaysia with the Amazonian rain forest.

The sky parks at Think's World Cultural Center would also be accessible to anyone, unlike the roof gardens of Rockefeller Center, which hoi polloi can enjoy only from some office window. "The space in the sky that was always relegated to commerce is now relegated to the public," Mr. Schwartz said. "You don't have to pay $100 at the Windows on the World to enjoy it."

Think had also envisioned a 16-acre sky park, 10 stories above the ground, but the judges did not go for it. "It is time to create a more integrated cohabitation of landscape and architecture in the city," said Ken Smith, the landscape architect on the architectural team, which includes Mr. Schwartz, Rafael Viñoly and Shigeru Ban. "I imagine a profusion of sky gardens, facade topiaries, hanging parterres, aerial allées and embedded orangeries."

Mr. Smith would also like to see pocket parks, like Paley Park, rising through the tower like a giant elevator. Or you could ride an escalator to various parks on different levels of the tower. "I think if you had enough of these gardens, and if they're interconnected, they would become one big thing in itself," Mr. Smith said.

It sounds a little bit like "Star Trek," but I like it.

The gardener in me has a few questions, however. Those Gardens of the World — how are they going to survive? "All you're doing is taking a conservatory like Kew Gardens and lifting it 70 stories in the air," Mr. Hargreaves said. "It's very easy 19th- or early-20th-century technology."

Mr. Libeskind said his group used the Ford Foundation atrium, on East 43rd Street, as its model, which strikes me as an odd choice. Dan Kiley, the landscape architect, designed the garden in 1967, originally for Southern magnolias and blooming cherries. But the enclosed space was too warm for the trees to become dormant, and never had enough light. Over the years, the trees died and were replaced by other plants.

On a recent rainy day, I found the Ford Foundation gardens dark and gloomy. Though intended as a public space, it was empty except for the security guard and people moving behind the glass walls of the offices, 12 stories up.

Who would use the Gardens of the World, 65 floors up? I'm afraid New Yorkers might go there only with Aunt Ethel, visiting from Des Moines.

And the Sky Park on top of the Think team's World Cultural Center? "Who is going to walk up all those stairs?" one woman remarked as we stood in the Winter Garden, eyes glued to Think's video, which showed virtual people mounting the 110 flights of stairs up the lattice-work tower. Those who made it to the top strolled around a rooftop of trees and grass, with spectacular views of city, water and sky. In reality, Mr. Schwartz said, people would take a glass elevator, enjoying the view on the way.

In the video, the trees were just little green clouds on sticks. Real trees might have a hard time with all that wind. Prairie grasses might work better. "Imagine the sound," said David Kamp, a landscape architect who specializes in healing gardens. "They would look so beautiful moving in the wind." Or you could grow seaside plants like Rosa rugosa, beach plum and bayberry.

These sky gardens may be the harbingers of green buildings like the "bioclimatic skyscrapers" the Malaysian architect Ken Yeang is designing for diverse places like Singapore, Beijing and London. His buildings are layered with hedges and green terraces and have trellised vines shading the sides of buildings.

Architects like Foster & Partners of London, whose proposal for the World Trade Center did not make the cut, are credited with building the world's first environmentally friendly high-rise. Their Commerzbank, a 54-story office building in downtown Frankfurt, which opened in 1996, has nine four-story gardens spiraling up the triangular building; it is planted with olive trees, magnolias and drought-tolerant species.

"The gardens are very popular for coffee breaks, and catching up on the latest gossip," said Dennis Phillips, whose office on the 46th floor has a view of one garden. "Sequoia trees grow on the 39th floor."

So it can be done. But New Yorkers aren't so sure they need sky gardens. "We do not see a real usefulness in a park in the sky unless it's something that supplements green space on the ground," said Madelyn Wils, the chairwoman of Community Board 1. "A lot of people are walking through the site, and if they have to spend 15 minutes taking an escalator up to a green space, they probably won't do it."

Matt Arnn, a landscape architect heading one of the discussion groups sponsored by the Municipal Art Society, got the same message. "People don't want to take elevators to their parks," he said. "When public space is above grade, it tends to separate people from the life of the street."

But Mr. Smith, Think's landscape architect, says New Yorkers are just not used to the idea. "Once you do it," he said, "everybody might say it's the greatest thing on earth."

Well, maybe. But not as a substitute for parks on the ground, which offer sustenance for the soul as well as a hot dog, a place to ride your bicycle, to sled down a gentle hill, fly a kite, go around on the carousel and row a boat. Barbara Littenberg, an architect who with Steven Peterson proposed a sunken garden around the footprints of the towers, and a long promenade down West Street, noted that all these gardens in the sky were not so much hopeful as ominous. They reminded her of movies like "Blade Runner" that imagine an uninhabitable world.

"The ground is seen as a sinister place for aliens and misfits," Ms. Littenberg said. "And only those living in the pristine towers are members of the community." The towers in her own proposal were rather unimaginative throwbacks, but she has a point about the "Blade Runner" image.

The Libeskind and Think proposals may be full of hope. But I don't yet want to desert the earth for the sky. Most of us down below won't ever get on those elevators.

* * * * * * * * http://graphics7.nytimes.com/images/2003/02/13/garden/13natu.2.184.jpg *
* * * * * * * Ken Smith Landscape Architect

GOING UP AND FAR OUT The landscape architect Ken Smith imagines an "elevator park" that would connect gardens below to a park atop a tower at the trade center site.

February 21st, 2003, 08:11 AM
NY Newsday.

WTC Design Finalist Buries 'Skeletons In The Sky'
By Katia Hetter
Staff Writer

February 20, 2003, 8:16 PM EST

Saying that “two skeletons in the sky” would not represent New York or America, Ground Zero design finalist Daniel Libeskind Thursday criticized the other finalist in the competition to redevelop the site.

Without naming THINK — the architecture team led by New Yorkers Rafael Viñoly, Frederic Schwartz, Ken Smith and Tokyo-based Shigeru Ban — he seemed to criticize their plan for twin lattice towers reaching into the sky.

“There is a dramatic and urgent need to repair the skyline,” Libeskind wrote in an online conversation with Gothamgazette.com. “I do not believe that two skeletons in the sky asserts the vitality of New York or the courage of America. I do believe that a distinctive and economically viable skyline has to be built.”

Later, Libeskind spokeswoman Nicole Straus called to convey Liebeskind’s apologize “for the unfortunate use of the term [skeleton].”

Speaking from their Berlin office, Nina Libeskind, Daniel’s wife and business partner, said her husband meant “skeletal frameworks,” not “skeletons.” She said a non-native English speaker was typing her husband’s responses during the live Web chat.

The Lower Manhattan Development Corp. and the Port Authority expect to announce the winner late next week. Schwartz declined to comment about Liebeskind’s remarks.

In a tour of Ground Zero last week, Port Authority executive director Joseph Seymour said much of the walls of the so-called bathtub, in which the Twin Towers sat, will require anywhere from two to three feet of concrete reinforcement. Construction workers are already working to reinforce the south and east walls, near the temporary PATH station that is under construction.

Libeskind, however, wrote that “the slurry walls will be visible and seen. The modification we have been asked to review will not in any way diminish our core ideas.”
Responding to questions from Gothamgazette.com visitors, Libeskind said he had “no intention to decrease the height of any building” in his proposal.

Meanwhile, the Port Authority presented its transportation proposals before another group of interested stakeholders. The agency, which met with the victims families last week to a mixed reception, had a less volatile audience Thursday night.

February 21st, 2003, 08:19 AM
A Conversation With Daniel Libeskind

On Thursday February 20, Gotham Gazette held an online chat with World Trade Center site design finalist Daniel Libeskind. His plan for Ground Zero exposes the foundations of the original twin towers.

Gotham Gazette:
Welcome everyone, and thanks for coming. Today we are talking to Daniel Libeskind, a finalist in the competition to design Ground Zero.

Good morning, Mr. Libeskind (or good afternoon, as you are joining us from Germany!)

The New York Times reported today that rebuilding officials, as well as Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Pataki, favor your design for the World Trade Center site. Why do you think that there is this apparent strong support?

Daniel Libeskind:
Because we have reached a balance between history, memory, revitalization and the future.

What do you mean specifically? How does your plan address these four things?

Revealing the slurry walls retains the memory and does not erase history. Revitalization is met by activating the street level and attaining heights and densities which speak to the future.

Your plan memorializes the September 11 attacks in many ways. Can you describe the design’s different features and the meanings behind them?

The first element is the Wedge of Light. A public space created by the sun angles on September 11 between the time the first tower was hit and the second tower collapsed. Every September 11 no shadow will fall on that public space. Park of Heroes is a park dedicated to all those who lost their lives on September 11. Third, the space of the memorial preserves the footprints, preserves the slurry wall and provides a generous space for the memorial competition. In order to repair the skyline and affirm life we are proposing an immediate building which will be a modification of the Gardens of the World Tower.

savethewtc asks, "Mr. Libeskind, thank you for all your dedication in this project. Regarding the rebuilding of the WTC site, there are some who support rebuilding tall to at least the height of the old WTC, and others who may fear to work at such heights. What are your personal thoughts on rebuilding to such heights and what do you tell people that fear of working so high?"

I think that currently there is an immense fear of working as high as people worked before. In my scheme we will balance that fear with the obvious need for higher heights and densities. There is an equal desire on many people's part to build taller than even before. But there is the reality that somebody has to commercially develop these buildings.

Why do you think there is an obvious need for higher heights?

There is a dramatic and urgent need to repair the skyline. I do not believe that two skeletons in the sky asserts the vitality of New York or the courage of America. I do believe that a distinctive and economically viable skyline has to be built.

Are you saying that the Think plan looks like two skeletons in the sky? Compare your plan to the other finalists. What do you believe your plan does better for the site?

Our scheme puts cultural life and retail and commercial life on the streets. A balance has to be reached between the memorial site and the activities of a bustling and active city life. We have formed a cultural nexus at the intersections of Greenwich and Fulton streets and will provide dense retail activity on the street level connected to the underground.

You are implying by your answer that the THINK plan is only two towers. But weren't those just meant to be the anchors to attract commercial and business development?

We have provided an attractor to that site by proposing the memorial site, the slurry walls, the cultural nexus, and the reintegrated city street grid. Surrounding this we will provide the space for flexible commercial development.

Peter Fegan asks, "What kind of message do you think leaving an open grave site in the middle of the World Trade Center sends not only to our city, but to terrorists around the world?"

We have been asked to look at the nature and atmosphere of the memorial site. Far from an open grave, the memorial site will prove to be an attractive, contemplative, and spiritual space. It reveals the heroic foundation of the slurry walls which withstood the incredible trauma of the attack. I do believe that one must preserve a space which will allow people to think, experience and reflect on the enormity of the tragedy.

Officials have said that both of the finalist plans will need to be modified before they choose one design. We have two questions about this:

Neil O asks, "The 1776 foot tall tower is amazing. Please don't get forced into decreasing the height. We need something to redefine the skyline and that tower is it. Do you plan to change that at all?"

savethewtc asks, "Mr. Libeskind, it has been said that the slurry walls may be unable to be exposed. If this is the case, your proposal will be significantly changed, how will your team respond to this change?"

We have no intention to decrease the height of any building. Beyond that we are not allowed to discuss the immediate tasks we have been given by the LMDC and the Port Authority since they have placed a strict embargo on our work. I can well assure you that the slurry walls will be visible and seen. The modification we have been asked to review will not in any way diminish our core ideas.

When will we know what the altered plans will look like?

When the LMDC and the Port Authority release them to the public.

Your design preserves the seven-acre hole where the twin towers stood, called the "bathtub," for a memorial 70 feet below ground level. The Times recently reported that rebuilding officials have asked you to change your design in order to make room for a bus parking garage and the PATH station. But many victims’ family members say that the entire 70-foot pit is sacred ground and should not be used for transportation infrastructure. How will you accommodate both of these views?

It is our understanding that the families are concerned about security issues. The path station is already being built. It has always been there and the tracks cover the south footprint. There is no possibility for the path train to be moved. The transportation infrastructure can be accommodated.

Community Gardener: "Mr. Libeskind - I'm talking now as someone who worked in the WTC during the first bombing in '93 & lost several friends on 9/11. My father-in-law was a construction worker on the original WTC, his last job before he retired. He and other craftsman said that the earlier building was rapidly and poorly constructed because of the exo-skeletal design? How do you plan to design your buildings with greater structural safety?"

It is correct that the original WTC Towers were not constructed to the more stringent rules and regulations that apply today. There is an entire family and community group that has made it their tasks to lobby for buildings built by the Port Authority to be at the highest standard. There is no possibility that either I or any other responsible architect would conceivably build high rise buildings without the latest structural and mechanical knowledge. That includes the knowledge of enclosed elevator cores, stair cores, egress and access, all of which can be engineered to a higher degree of safety.

The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation will soon be conducting a separate competition for a memorial. Yet your design has many memorial spaces and, with its exposed hole where the Twin Towers stood, interprets how we should remember the attack. How might a separate memorial design fit in with your plan for Ground Zero?

What I am providing is the outline of a memorial site. It includes the memorial site, the footprints, the September 11th Plaza, and the walls around the site. This allows for not only a two dimensional space but a three dimensional one for the memorial competition. I have simply indicated the parameters of the site without any design included. Whatever memorial is chosen will be done by the jury designated.

Robert Beecher asks, "Do you personally plan on entering the memorial competition, or are you prohibited from entering?"

Simply put if I win then I shall work closely with whom ever wins the competition. If I lose, then I will have to think about it!

What is the cost of your World Trade Center site plan, and do you think that there will be enough money to build it?

Our WTC plan has been cost estimated at between 220 and 320 million dollars. It is considered the bargain basement of all the schemes in the competition. I believe there will be more then enough money for this scheme.

Do you think that is one reason that your plan is the frontrunner? Because of its cost?

I cannot comment on that. Certainly I have tried to be economically responsible to the client and to the people of New York who have to pay for this.

Do you have an idea of how much of your plan would be paid for with private vs. public money?

Clearly the office towers will be developed by private developers and investors. And clearly the below ground infrastructure will be paid for by FEMA money administered by the Port Authority and the LMDC. The above ground public spaces, including roads and parks, will be paid for with public funds. And obviously cultural institutions, like a performing art center and a museum, will be paid for by public funds with some private donations.

GSD asks, "What role is the "winner" likely to play when economics and the realities of real estate finance come into play? How could you or another architect ensure that the integrity of the architectural vision is not compromised?"

As an architect who has had the good fortune to build primarily public projects, I believe that one of the most important roles is to be a strong and persuasive advocate. I believe that the urban idea has to be strong enough to withstand the vicissitudes of both developers and politicians.

Philip Nobel, in a Nation article, said that "the shaken should look elsewhere [besides architecture] for solace." Are people investing too much hope that the aesthetics of architecture will heal the city or provide solutions?

I would respectfully disagree. I believe architecture to be a communicative public art that tells a story, not just of its own making, but much more importantly the story of its context.

Bessie asks, "I don't know if this question has been asked but do you believe there are some "fundamental flaws" in the program - in the sense that is there a new kind of program, more process oriented, that can foster a new approach to place making and city building in the 21st century?"

I have participated in countless competitions. This one has proven to be the most open minded and civically driven that I have ever experienced. There is no doubt that the difficulties inherent in this process have been due to the uniqueness of the tragedy and of the depth of the response needed. No matter what the result, as an American and a New Yorker I have felt privileged and honored to be part of it.

Thanks for coming today, Mr. Libeskind.

Thank you for the opportunity.

February 21st, 2003, 08:20 AM
It's not an unfortunate use of the term [skeleton].
But it never hurts to be frank first, polite afterwards. And insist on what really matters.

February 21st, 2003, 09:26 AM
Daily News...
WTC front-runner disses rival


A finalist for rebuilding Ground Zero took a swipe at his rival yesterday, calling the plan's signature latticework structures "skeletons" that don't restore the skyline.

Architect Daniel Libeskind spoke as several top rebuilding officials are leaning toward his design, which exposes the open pit at Ground Zero.

During a live Internet forum, Libeskind said "there is a dramatic and urgent need to repair the skyline. I do not believe that two skeletons in the sky asserts the vitality of New York or the courage of America. I do believe that a distinctive and economically viable skyline has to be built."

Libeskind was referring to a rival plan by architects Rafael Vinoly and Fred Schwartz, with two latticework structures evoking the twin towers.

Through a spokeswoman, Libeskind later apologized for his words, which sources said angered some officials at the Lower Manhattan Development Corp.

Libeskind's plan is favored by some officials, including Gov. Pataki, Mayor Bloomberg and the Port Authority. However, some key members of the LMDC board have issues with the exposed pit of the Libeskind design - among them corporation board chairman John Whitehead, sources said.

Libeskind said his plan would cost about $320 million, saying "it is considered the bargain basement of all the schemes."

His plan has gained favor as much for what's not in it as what's there, sources said.

The design doesn't lock officials into building specific structures, said the sources, who equated it to as near a blank slate as there is.

"The fact is, it gives a lot of flexibility," said one official. "We're not fixed to do any one thing."

By contrast, the key component of the Vinoly-Schwartz plan is the towers.

Matthew Higgins, an LMDC spokesman, insisted no decision has been made and that "both teams are still refining their plans."

February 21st, 2003, 09:50 AM
$320 million.
There's room for improvements.

February 21st, 2003, 06:23 PM
Apparently most of the deciders aren't too preoccupied with the quality of the result and are merely pondering cost, risk and flexibility in order to come to a decision - as if they were developers themselves. Roland Betts, the self-proclaimed design advocate, favors Think and might not care to prevent the Libeskind scheme from being reduced to nothing if it is selected. Bloomberg said early in the process that we should not look at what we want but at what the market wants and recently confirmed that view despite his applause of the proposals when they were presented. He is stubborn and tends to self-righteously ignore public opinion. The competition may indeed have been a way to deceive the public, still the only force with the power to make it happen. The battle will probably take place in the media and, if worse comes to worse, possibly in the streets.

February 23rd, 2003, 01:48 PM
I do think that if Libeskind is chosen that he will be a good voice in the media against any drive by Silverstein or the PA to banalize the architecture of the site. He has shown he is not afraid to speak out.

February 25th, 2003, 03:56 PM
Drawn to Criticism
WTC finalists rivals by design
By Katia Hetter

February 25, 2003

The conversations about "sacred ground" and "soaring memorials" have denigrated to sniping and snide remarks.

Finalists Daniel Libeskind and the THINK team led by Rafael Viñoly have stepped up - or brought down - their behind-the-scenes lobbying as they prepared to present their revised work before redevelopment officials today.

Officials from the state, city, Lower Manhattan Development Corp. and Port Authority will meet tomorrow to select a winner to redesign the World Trade Center site. An announcement is expected Thursday.

It started out as the architecture competition of a lifetime, a chance to remember the victims of Sept. 11 while proposing a new kind of downtown. That could still happen, with both teams receiving rave reviews. But the week before the winner is chosen resembles a political campaign, with each side taking its best shot - despite LMDC officials telling the teams not to criticize their opponents.

Team THINK's name is "so Orwellian," Libeskind said to the Los Angeles Times, while the name of THINK's proposal, "World Cultural Center," reminds him of Stalinist buildings in the middle of Eastern European cities. Team THINK's public relations staff, perhaps worried about Libeskind's front-runner status, called reporters yesterday to mention Libeskind's comments to the Los Angeles Times and commiserate about how dirty the debate has gotten.

"The [Los Angeles Times] interview was lengthy, and perhaps some of his words were taken out of context," said Libeskind's spokeswoman, Nicole Straus, who said she had not seen the piece.

Architectural observers expressed dismay at the "low level" of conversation.

"What is at stake?" said Susan Szenasy, editor of Metropolis, a local architecture magazine. "It isn't their egos. It's the city, it's the people of the city."

Libeskind called the THINK proposal, for twin latticework towers filled with spaces for cultural institutions, "skeletons in the sky" in an online chat. He later apologized.

Viñoly may have voiced his criticism more quietly, but he has taken shots at Libeskind, reportedly charging his rival architect with focusing on death.

A Viñoly's spokeswoman did not respond to a call for comment.

It's not the first time that architects involved in the trade center have come out swinging.

Charles Gwathmey, whose design did not make the finals, in December criticized many of the tower-based proposals as unoriginal.

"Everything that is a tower is already dated," said Gwathmey, a member of the team of Richard Meier, Peter Eisenman and Steven Holl, which produced the so-called "picket fence" design.

Both finalists have exhibited an "incredible amount of mutual respect" leading up to the final week, said Frederic Bell, executive director of the American Institute of Architects New York chapter. "Right now, they're both completely convinced that their perception of the site is more valid. It's hard not to find fault."

Copyright © 2003, Newsday, Inc.

February 26th, 2003, 08:07 AM
February 26, 2003
Finalists for Ground Zero Design Pull Out the Stops

Packed meetings at Town Hall, get-out-the-vote e-mails and head-to-head chats with Charlie Rose may not be as rugged and ritualized as photo-ops in the South Bronx, but in many ways the architects proposing designs for the World Trade Center site have been acting like media-age politicians.

The two finalists from an original pack of seven design teams — Daniel Libeskind from Berlin and Rafael Viñoly and Frederic Schwartz, the two front men on the Think team — grasped the political nature of the selection process from the start, playing straight to the public as if the citizens of New York City were the clients for the job.

With talk of truth and beauty, memory and monument, these architects have been selling themselves like movie stars. One firm has hired publicists; architects from both firms have been hosts of mini-salons for journalists and well-wishers at the Odeon bar and the Four Seasons Hotel, discussed their eye wear in print and made presentations to any civic or cultural group that would have them. Not since Gary Cooper appeared in "The Fountainhead" has the public been so riveted by architecture and architects.

"Usually, it's the client in the lead orchestrating the media and managing the political situation," said Robert Ivy, the editor in chief of Architectural Record magazine. "But in the absence of a strong client and with an ad hoc political entity acting as developer, it has fallen to the architects."

It has been 10 weeks since kickoff at the Winter Garden, where the highly orchestrated presentation of architectural designs for rebuilding at ground zero was as widely televised as any national convention. Since then stops along the campaign trail have included the quiet resignation of key members of one team, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, under the cloud of conflict of interest (the firm was already working for the developer Larry Silverstein); a profile of Mr. Libeskind in The New York Observer and regular appearances by Mr. Schwartz on New York Tonight, a cable program on New York One. On Monday, the finalists appeared on the Oprah Winfrey show. Richard Kahan, the former chief executive of the Battery Park City Authority, said that there has never been anything like such high-profile performances by architects before a master plan, much less the design, has been completed.

"When we had architectural competitions for big things in the past like the Javits Center or Battery Park City, there was never any question who the developer was and what was going to get built," Mr. Kahan said. "All the community work was done beforehand and the design was kept under wraps. It was all very centralized."

But there are few certainties about building at ground gero, and even fewer expectations guiding the architects. Mr. Libeskind — with help from his wife, Nina, whose father served in the Canadian Parliament and whose brother is now a special envoy to Kofi Annan at the United Nations — has sought to make a public case for his scheme.

In a black leather jacket that has earned him comparisons to "Sprockets," the German intellectual played by Mike Meyers on "Saturday Night Live," Mr. Libeskind has been featured in Time magazine's new supplement on style and design. His cowboy boots and his spectacles have been written up in consecutive Sunday Styles sections of The New York Times. (Mr. Viñoly appeared there only with his eyeglasses, two pairs of them.) And Rolling Stone magazine has asked Mr. Libeskind to list a few of his favorite things.

Shortly before the finalists were selected, an e-mail message emanated from Studio Daniel Libeskind in Berlin urging friends, "in a shameless attempt to inflate public opinion," to vote for the Libeskind plan on the CNN and New York One Web site polls.

Some moves have backfired. The Libeskinds have worked their way through two New York publicists, telling the first one, Joanne Crevling, in a phone conversation from Berlin that they wanted air time with Larry King, Connie Chung and on "60 Minutes." When they hired a second publicist for an extra boost, Ms. Crevling protested and the Libeskinds moved on. "They don't understand," she said. "You can't come into this town and have a duplicate effort."

Some have felt that the personal touch has been heavy-handed. When The New York Post quoted a few negative reactions to the Libeskind scheme from the Battery Park City residents and family members of victims, Ms. Libeskind tried to contact some of them herself.

"After I was quoted in The Post," said Sudhir Jain, the president of the Battery Park Residents Coalition, "a third party called to see if I would meet with the Libeskinds to explain why I'd said what I did."

More recently, a second e-mail offensive by an employee in the Libeskind camp charged Herbert Muschamp, the architecture critic of The New York Times, with favoritism following an article praising the Viñoly plan and criticizing the Libeskind one; the e-mail message called for a letter campaign of complaint to The Times. The employee quickly made a public apology; Ms. Libeskind said that she and her husband had not been told of the message in advance and were embarrassed by it.

Mr. Libeskind said the process has changed architecture. "We have no regrets," he said. "Whatever people want to talk about is fine. From now on, architecture will never be the same. There will never be a building without people talking about what is happening and what it's going to look like. From now on, architecture will be as interesting for people to talk about as the taste of wine."

Mr. Viñoly and Mr. Schwartz have had the advantage of being resident New Yorkers. Less visible in the press, they have actively courted New York's cultural and civic organizations. Mr. Viñoly has personally called or accepted invitations from the Municipal Art Society, The New York Times editorial board and the Labor Community Advocacy Network, with whom the Libeskinds had already met.

"Viñoly was eager to persuade us of his plans," said David Kallick, the coordinator for the labor group. "Libeskind on the other hand saw the project as requiring a back-and-forth process with the public as the ultimate client. He was not just campaigning."

Nikki Stern, a member of the board of Families of September 11, said that Mr. Viñoly and Mr. Schwartz had been in constant contact. Last week during a telephone interview with a reporter, she received an e-mail message from Mr. Viñoly offering to give her a ride to a lecture the architect was giving that night at a local bookstore. "They've asked me to find out what families don't understand and don't like about their design," Ms. Stern said. "I don't know how influential the families are anymore, but I appreciate their attention." Other widows have found the attention of the architects overwhelming, as if they were pushing them to choose sides, she said.

While the Libeskinds have interacted with journalists and supporters in the lobby of the Four Seasons Hotel, Mr. Viñoly and Mr. Schwartz have held meetings at Mr. Viñoly's office, which fills an entire building downtown.

Such aggressive tactics are not the norm among architects, for whom a soft sell, like the cocktail parties at the Century Club favored by the architect I. M. Pei, is more common. But little has been ordinary about the ground zero project, and courting the public was clearly the winning approach.

The teams that behaved more aloofly are now kicking themselves.

"We were seriously behind in targeting the right people and getting across to decision makers," said Greg Lynn, an architect on the United team, a collaboration of young architectural stars from Manhattan, Los Angeles, London and Rotterdam. Referring to New York New Visions, a professional group that produced a 45-page analysis of all the schemes, Mr. Lynn added, "If we'd had half a brain we'd have called up Hugh Hardy" of New York New Visions "and trotted down to his office and explained it to him."

Other teams saw the aloof approach as taking the high ground. "We didn't promote," said Richard Meier who worked with his fellow New York architects Peter Eisenman, Charles Gwathmey and Steven Holl, calling them, at the Winter Garden presentation, "New York home team — some call us the Dream Team."

"We thought it was about the work, not promotion," he said. "We didn't behave the way the other teams behaved; it was not in the personality of our team. And it showed in the fact that we didn't get chosen."

As in the final stretch of any campaign, the gloves are coming off. A final decision is expected on Thursday, and last Thursday in an interview with the local news Web site Gotham Gazette, Mr. Libeskind dismissed the Think plan as "two skeletons in the sky." In conversations with several journalists, Mr. Viñoly has compared Mr. Libeskind's concept for the memorial site to the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem.

Will any amount of posing for the public and in the press make a difference to the decision-makers at the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation and the Port Authority? Billie Tsien, an architect on the board of the design corporation, said that the final decision would not be based on a vote but on the independent analysis of many factors. But, she added, a little chutzpah couldn't hurt.

"Whoever wins will have to be someone with the ego and an interest in manipulating the system," Ms. Tsien said. "And if getting out there now shows that they are going to hang in there for the long run and make it happen, so much the better."

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

February 26th, 2003, 08:27 AM
In a black leather jacket that has earned him comparisons to "Sprockets," the German intellectual
played by Mike Meyers on "Saturday Night Live," Mr. Libeskind has been featured in Time magazine's new supplement on style and design.
That alone should make him the winner. :)