Recreating the thread about the New York Magazine proposals: Seven eminent architects offer their bold visions for a new World Trade Center and a new skyline.


Who can forget the booing that erupted spontaneously at the Javits Center two months ago after the presentation of six much-anticipated plans for rebuilding the World Trade Center site? The audience of 5,000 New Yorkers from every walk of life were not just being contrarians; they were expressing a collective demand for urban and architectural greatness, scaled to the magnitude of 9/11. Overt banality would not do; nor would the dry calculus of square-footage, excessive infrastructure, and rote planning. Architecture can't be plugged in at the end of the design process because design itself is the most powerful instrument of planning. The proposals, generated by a single New York firm with no record of work on this level, simply lacked vision.

Making the city whole again is a way of making ourselves whole. The Parthenon, the Pantheon, and any number of Gothic cathedrals all provoke a sense of wonder, and even if the belief systems that created them have collapsed or changed, the stones still speak to our eyes, body, and spirit. New Yorkers need buildings at the World Trade Center site that will make us stop, look, and feel. Buildings that will make us turn our gaze up and understand a larger order of aspiration. This is not the time to settle for real-estate deals dressed up with expensive curtain walls but the moment to prescribe curative doses of the beautiful, the poetic, the sublime.

New York invited six practicing architects and one practicing visionary to design proposals for the site. They spent their summer vacations devising and drawing plans, in the hopes that their proposals might help establish ideas and open debate about the future of ground zero. Even as the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation and, presumably, the Port Authority regroup and open the process to more architects globally, the plans that follow set an imaginative and practicable standard for what New Yorkers, Americans, and the rest of the world hope the site might be. Rebuilding beautifully and joyfully, presenting a vision at once soaring and dignified, honors the dead as well as the living.

A wide range of solutions began to appear on our computer screens in late August. These designs encourage interconnectedness between the buildings themselves, the underground infrastructure, and the surrounding city. Some connect directly and daringly to the waterfront or bring water to the site. All cultivate the three-dimensionality of Manhattan, where the ground plane is not always earth but a surface with many layers built above and below. They also factor many diverse uses into the plans to ensure a robust 24/7 urbanism.

Above all, the proposals are, in different ways, heroic and evocative. They aspire to nothing less than a transfiguration of the events of 9/11, provoking a primal whoosh of recognition. While these designs function -- accommodating large amounts of square-footage, the anticipated transport infrastructure, and a multiplicity of uses -- they are not functionalist as a first and primary premise. Instead, apocalyptic destruction is answered with an equal and opposite reaction. These are structures that return a sense of awe to the city, and solidity too. This complex of buildings, as no other, must move us to want to live fully again in our city.


1. Zaha Hadid
Zaha Hadid Architects
London, England

TWIN TOWERS REDUX: A sinuous pair of double towers forms the centerpiece of Hadid's design -- the thinner for residential apartments, the wider for offices.

Showing a defiant confidence in Manhattan and in the very tall building, Zaha Hadid proposes a skyscraper that is higher, bigger, and more complex than the original World Trade Center towers. The London architect, noted for inventing forms that encourage social interaction in and around a building, evokes the original towers with a double set of sinuous twins, the thinner pair for residential use and the thicker for offices. But the new buildings are no longer extruded from square footprints like tubes. The four towers bend and merge at various points, the floor levels swelling and receding along the vertical axis to accommodate different uses. Hadid and her associate, Patrick Schumacher, reinvent the skyscraper as a building type, operating on the principle of connecting rather than isolating floors and people, and varying spaces rather than repeating them identically. They create a mille-feuille landscape whose folded and layered topography, comprising spaces dedicated to shopping, transport, and culture, are interwoven with passages linking the development, as in a complex root system. In tribute both to the dead and to the World Trade Center, the architects cut deeply into the towers' footprints, creating hollow tubes that become haunting voids.


2. Thom Mayne
Santa Monica, California

REACHING OUT: An Eiffel-like tower is the focal point of Mayne's plan, a densely inhabited mix of commercial and recreational spaces forming a vibrant tribute to the dead.

The complex proposed by Thom Mayne constitutes a memorial to the victims of 9/11, but an inhabited memorial that commemorates the tragedy by treating the entire site as an affirmation of the living city -- from underground transportation systems to offices to residences. Mayne turns the skyscraper on its side, creating undulating, intersecting horizontal tubes that accommodate commercial office space. A skeletal, 1,300-foot-tall communications tower wrapped in metal scrim sets the site in the skyline. An extension of the tower descends below grade, folding back and forth like a Jacob's ladder, facing an urban canyon that opens the site and exposes its underground life, with layered subway and rail systems and shopping concourses. The complex, with a spur that reaches out to the Hudson, forms a collar around the World Trade Center perimeter, defining a park or outdoor room that encircles the footprints of the original towers. The park rises to the south, above underground commercial and recreational spaces. One of the footprints is designed as a plaza isolated in its own tranquillity, a pocket of reflection. An opening above the second footprint serves as an oculus leading to an underground memorial space honoring the dead.


3. William Pedersen
Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates
New York, New York * *

PURIFICATION: Water from the Hudson is drawn to the top of Pedersen's tower, purified, and released along a promenade to the bay below.

William Pedersen proposes a continuous rooftop memorial promenade starting at the Statue of Liberty ferry landing and rising steadily above new residential blocks and office buildings. The sky promenade forms a populous wall spiraling around the original World Trade Center site that culminates in a 2,001-foot tower overlooking the footprints of the original towers, which will be transformed into reflecting pools. The upper reaches of the tower itself will be equipped with banks of wind turbines and solar panels, and the sky-memorial promenade will have a stream of Hudson River water purified and filtered as it courses down to the harbor, serving the building along the way and, at least symbolically, cleansing the site. The wall of buildings is broken by the surrounding street grid into segments, each created by different design teams. The scheme accommodates 10 million square feet for offices, apartments, stores, and cultural institutions, including a memorial museum. Pedersen, whose firm has built extensively in New York and abroad, including projects that are among the tallest in the world, compares the sky promenade to the exhilarating experience of walking on the pedestrian decks of New York's suspension bridges.


4. Peter Eisenman
Eisenman Architects
New York, New York

SHATTERING VISION: Although Eisenman proposes familiar-looking towers, the spaces between them suggest shards of glass restored in dreamlike streams.

Peter Eisenman, a New York architectural theorist known for radically challenging the design and planning of buildings and cities, embarks on the World Trade Center plan with a metaphor: If architecture is a mirror of society, the destruction of the Twin Towers on September 11 shattered the narcissistic reflection. He proposes transforming that idea into a permanent structure. The footprints of the towers remain as visible traces within a complex that is simultaneously building, memorial, and landscape. High-rise towers ring the site, but the imprint of the lost skyscrapers generates a turbulent flow outward. (An alternative interpretation is that the towers are flowing back, or receding toward, their point of origin.) The complex embodies the notion of simultaneous construction and destruction. Architecturally, the towers are surprisingly conventional inside, with standard elevator cores and floor plates. They present familiar façades to the surrounding city. Where they fold into the ground, however, they create a rich variety of flowing spaces that can accommodate many uses, including an opera house and the New School University (Eisenman worked on the scheme with New School president Bob Kerrey, who acted as client).


5. Wolf Prix
Coop Himmelb(l)au
Vienna, Austria

HOURGLASS: In Prix's futuristic scheme, three beveled towers support a vast bowl of apartments and a platform housing malls, hotels, and cultural facilities.

Wolf Prix, a radical Viennese architect with experience in large-scale museums and high-density public housing, plays with New York's identity as a vertical city by proposing a megastructure piled 100 stories high. Three mixed-use towers placed in a triangle act as pylons supporting a vast bowl of apartments, conceived for what Prix calls "Skyliving." Like the upper half of an hourglass, the bowl hovers above a dome around and inside which spirals a promenade. The interior ring overlooks the footprints of the World Trade Center towers, protected within a grand vaulted space dedicated as a memorial void. A huge platform several stories high rings the dome, housing cultural facilities, malls, hotels, and public offices. The platform, with an edge that curls like a cloud, floats above the ground plane, where the street grid is restored and outdoor space is left open for public use. A pedestrian bridge starting near Broadway crosses the site and becomes a ferry port on the Hudson. Prix and his partner, Helmut Swiczinsky, dedicate several floors within each high-rise for sky lobbies -- areas where occupants can shop and socialize. Residential and office space mix in each tower.


6. Carlos Zapata
Wood + Zapata
Boston, Massachusetts

A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT: A 27-acre park with its own Hudson River tributary extends north and south from Zapata's sculpted tower.

A dynamically sculpted 130-story tower forms the iconic center of a 12 million-square-foot mixed-use complex that includes 4 million square feet of residential units. Carlos Zapata depresses West Street from Chambers Street in the north to Battery Park in the south to create a narrow 27-acre park with a flowing waterway fed by the Hudson. Roughly following the original Manhattan waterfront, the new river widens near the Trade Center site and borders the Twin Towers' footprints as well as the edge of the new skyscraper. Zapata retains both footprints and tops them with a glass roof and a net of cables to create light wells for the subterranean levels of the site, densely occupied with stores and a new path station. Pedestrian bridges crossing the footprints connect the city grid on the east to the new memorial park. Parts of Zapata's structures hover over edges of the footprints. The architect reconnects Greenwich Street with a curved avenue that frees up four blocks to the east to be designed by other architects and developers, to ensure heterogeneity in the project.


7. Lebbeus Woods
Lebbeus Woods
New York, New York

THE CHALLENGE: In Woods's graphic ruminations, ascents up an ever-rising tower provide pilgrims with an ongoing chance to contemplate 9/11.

Woods, an architecture visionary who lives, draws, and teaches just blocks from the Trade Center site, proposes a structure perpetually under construction, a "World Center" symbolizing regeneration and continual change. It is the tallest building in the world and will, as it grows, always be the tallest. It is a project with a precise beginning-September 11, 2001-but no ending.

The main feature of the 39 million-square-foot structure is a vertical memorial park called the Ascent, dedicated to reflecting and building on the experience of 9/11 and after. There are four ways to make the Ascent. The Pilgrimage is for the devout and involves a monthlong traversal of a difficult vertical path through a series of Stations. The Quest consists of a weeklong series of climbs up near-vertical faces, ledges, resting places, and camps. On the Trip, vacationers will spend two or three days among a series of platforms, lifts, escalators, interactive displays, hotels, restaurants, vistas, and educational entertainment. The half-day Tour consists of a rapid elevator ride to the summit of the Park, pausing at commemorative displays.

Atop the Ascent is the Summit, a community of pilgrims, climbers, vacationers, tourists, and World Center workers. They will join scholars, students, artists, philosophers, and others who have devoted themselves to the study of 9/11. The community crowns the World Center with a continuously evolving network of interior and exterior spaces and serves as a window into past, present, and future worlds, and as a place where arguments can be informed by new perspectives and possibilities.