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Thread: WTC Tower One - by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

  1. #151


    A tall order
    Can architects team up on ground zero skyscraper?

    By Blair Kamin
    Tribune architecture critic
    Published November 9, 2003

    NEW YORK -- Architect Daniel Libeskind says the height of his proposed 1,776-foot-tall tower at ground zero celebrates the year of the Declaration of Independence. So now that New York Gov. George Pataki has told Libeskind and architect David Childs that they have until Dec. 15 to resolve their very public differences about the skyscraper, it's a good time to recall what Benjamin Franklin told his fellow revolutionaries in 1776: "We must indeed all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately."

    Franklin's quip came to mind after a brief visit to ground zero on Oct. 30, the day that Pataki declared at a business luncheon that those involved in the rebuilding must "place the public's interest above self-interest." Libeskind and Childs were sitting side by side in the audience, so the governor's "stop-your-squabbling" message couldn't have been lost on them.

    Libeskind continues to press for the design he sketched in his competition-winning master plan -- an asymmetrical tower roughly 70 stories tall, with a slender spire that would echo the upraised arm of the Statue of Liberty and culminate an upward spiral of a group of slice-topped office buildings. Childs, who heads the New York office of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, wants a more monolithic form -- a muscular tower that twists as it rises, topped by a latticelike crown that includes antennas. His design, however, has not been made public.

    Can the two architects compromise without compromising the form -- and thus, the meaning -- of Libeskind's brilliant ground zero vision?

    Symbolic tower

    The so-called Freedom Tower is as much a part of Libeskind's plan as the below-ground memorial site that will reveal the damlike slurry wall that prevented the nearby Hudson River from flooding the site after the twin towers collapsed. (The wall would suggest democracy's resilience, Libeskind has said.)

    The Freedom Tower would strike up a powerful conversation with the Statue of Liberty and its raised torch. Though there is room for improvement (the off-center spire can be better integrated into the overall composition of the skyscraper), the Freedom Tower would be a striking reconstitution of the lower Manhattan skyline, one that optimistically scrapes the sky instead of marking it with a skeletal, downbeat void. Its genius is the way it draws the entire landscape -- the Statue of Liberty, the harbor, the skyline -- into a powerful symbolic whole.

    The rub is that Libeskind is not the lead architect for Freedom Tower. Childs is, designated for that role by developer Larry Silverstein, who holds the lease for the Trade Center and who is likely to control at least $3.5 billion in rebuilding funds once his insurers pay him for the damages caused by the terrorist attacks. Libeskind is supposed to "collaborate" on the project, an ill-defined role he was granted to ensure that Childs' skyscraper is consistent with his plan.

    I visited both architects on the morning before Pataki's speech (their lower Manhattan offices are just blocks apart), and though neither would speak on the record, I was struck by the enormity of the challenge they face -- plus their considerable personal differences.

    Childs is the quintessential corporate architect. He is soft-spoken but steel-willed; not a star with a singular style but a highly respected pragmatist and urbanist. His best design, still unbuilt, would re-create the grandeur of the old Pennsylvania Station by inserting an enormous metal and glass crescent between two wings of a Beaux-Arts post office building here. His twin-towered Time Warner Center, a glassy multiuse complex that evokes the gracious Art Deco residential towers along Central Park, is nearing completion at the park's southwest corner. If there is a knock against him, it is that he hasn't done a great building yet. Indeed, though Childs distanced himself from it, Skidmore's ground zero plan, which called for a forest of nine flat-topped towers, was a flop.

    Libeskind, on the other hand, personifies the celebrity, avant-garde "starchitect." His signature look -- the designer black glasses, the elfin smile, the shock of gray hair -- is as distinctive as his angular, shardlike buildings. He talks as fast as he seems to think, which is supersonic. He's a poet who infuses abstract, modern forms with deep emotional resonance. Seen from the air, for example, his Jewish Museum Berlin resembles a fractured Star of David, powerfully suggesting the brutal impact of Hitler's death camps. But he's never completed a skyscraper, and learning the ropes on the world's tallest office building, which the Freedom Tower could be, is a stretch.

    Is cooperation possible?

    Maybe Childs and Libeskind need each other. Maybe they can work together, as three architectural firms did in the 1930s to create this city's greatest complex of office and cultural buildings, Rockefeller Center. But maybe that's just wishful thinking.

    There is a growing conviction at Skidmore, which has designed numerous supertall skyscrapers, that Libeskind's design is more a piece of sculpture than a work of architecture. Critics there say it doesn't make sense, structurally or financially, because an enormous amount of internal structural steel would be required to prevent the wind from breaking off the asymmetrical spire.

    Yet Libeskind's backers respond that the design can be made practical and cost-effective. And there is reason to think they may be right, based on the precedent of I.M. Pei's Bank of China tower of 1990, which has its own elegant asymmetrical profile as it soars above downtown Hong Kong.

    The 1,209-foot tower relies on an internal three-dimension frame, called a space truss, to brace the building against typhoons. Perhaps its big-boned, cross-braced design provides a conceptual model for synthesizing Child's push for logical, internal structure with Libeskind's drive for emotional, external symbolism.

    Steps toward collaboration

    Whatever route they take toward a resolution, Libeskind and Childs need to make three key first steps:

    Libeskind must recall that his master plan is a vision, not a blueprint, and that his outline for the Freedom Tower is simply that -- an outline. As Frank Gehry's stunning new Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles shows, conceptual designs often get better when they are subjected to the realities of structure and program.

    Childs should remember that his design for Freedom Tower cannot start from a blank slate, but must begin with the critical features of Libeskind's plan. That plan was stamped with a democratic imprimatur when Pataki selected it after a heated public debate. Childs and Silverstein are embarking on a fool's errand if they seek to usurp that mandate.

    Both architects surely realize that the Freedom Tower will define -- for better or worse -- one of the world's great skylines and America's creative response to one of the most challenging episodes in its history. So the architects need to check their skyscraper-size egos at the door, find common ground and build their collaboration from there.

    Pataki's Oct. 30 order to the architects to end their duel came against a backdrop of progress at and around ground zero. Childs' 7 World Trade Center office building is rising just to the north. A rebuilt transit tube burrows across the site. A temporary commuter rail station will open Nov. 23. The sense of shock and despair, once so palpable at ground zero, is gone. It feels less like an open sore than a construction site, a place of possibility.

    But if the architects don't hang together, it also could be a place where an extraordinary opportunity is lost.

    Copyright © 2003, Chicago Tribune

  2. #152


    Childs should remember that his design for Freedom Tower cannot start from a blank slate, but must begin with the critical features of Libeskind's plan. That plan was stamped with a democratic imprimatur when Pataki selected it after a heated public debate. Childs and Silverstein are embarking on a fool's errand if they seek to usurp that mandate.
    LOL...even at least one LMDC member questions the use of the word "mandate", which the Libeskind plan has NEVER had...rather it was a plan selected by Pataki, lest anyone be fooled....I know I'm not....

  3. #153


    Pataki definitely chose it. IMO, it is impossible for any plan to have a mandate. There are simply too many conflicting opinions.

    Its interesting though how many casual observers really do believe that the public chose Libeskind. Aaah the power of disinformation in the press - perception is reality.

  4. #154


    That plan was stamped with a democratic imprimatur when Pataki selected it
    Isn't Pataki a Republican? :wink:

  5. #155



    Seymour: Money Enough For Freedom Tower

    By Graham Rayman
    November 13, 2003

    Port Authority chairman Joseph Seymour said Thursday that even with the raging court battle, there are already enough insurance proceeds to build Gov. George Pataki's proposed 2.5 million-square-foot Freedom Tower.

    Whether there is enough money to build everything else on a long-list of lower Manhattan projects as well as planned regional transportation projects is another question.

    Seymour appeared to suggest there is currently not enough money for serious consideration of an Airtrain link from lower Manhattan to Kennedy Airport, noting that the project would cost $3 billion to $4 billion.

    Of the $4.55 billion allotted to lower Manhattan transit projects, $2 billion is reserved for the transit hub, $860 million for the West Street tunnel, and the rest for renovations at the Fulton Street and South Ferry stations.

    Seymour said a design for the first new tower on the Trade Center site is expected Dec. 15; he said a preliminary rendering the new transit hub is expected in the spring.

    World Trade Center leaseholder Larry Silverstein is still embroiled in a court battle with his insurers. Asked to respond to concerns that Silverstein won't get enough insurance money to rebuild out of his litigation, Seymour offered an indirect answer. "We have an obligation to provide 10 million square feet," he said, speaking at a Crain's Business breakfast at the Hilton in midtown. "There is no question in my mind that with insurance proceeds and the federal dollars for the infrastructure, we can rebuild the development," he said.

    He said buying out the $563 million GMAC loan to Silverstein remains under negotiation. And he left the door slightly open for the Port Authority to take space in Silverstein's 7 World Trade Center. He even joked that it seemed he and Silverstein are "joined at the hip."

    On Nov. 23, PATH train service will reopen at the site, Seymour said.

  6. #156


    November 16, 2003

    Scenes From a Forced Marriage


    Daniel Libeskind's Jewish Museum, left, and David M. Childs's Time Warner Center: meshing styles, personalities and bosses to design a tower for ground zero.

    At least no one has pulled a knife.

    The roily architectural union of Daniel Libeskind and David M. Childs — officials describe it wishfully as a collaboration but Mr. Libeskind likens it to a forced marriage — has already secured a place in the annals of contentious architectural alliances. Tables have been pounded, disparaging innuendoes whispered. The imbroglio earned a public admonition from Gov. George E. Pataki, who gave the sparring architects until Dec. 15 to agree on a design for the Freedom Tower, the pinnacle of the new World Trade Center.

    But in historical terms, Mr. Childs and Mr. Libeskind have been acting like perfect gentlemen. For instance, neither has shown his displeasure quite as viscerally as Eero Saarinen did in 1958, while he and five other architects struggled over Lincoln Center. One day, to express his concern about the appearance of Philip Johnson's ballet theater, Saarinen took a palette knife to a clay model of the building and simply slashed off the projecting stage house.

    The absence of knife play over the Freedom Tower does not guarantee that the intended partnership will run smoothly. A meeting between the architects last Monday was described as positive by both sides. History, however, suggests that the turmoil will continue. There is a long tradition, in New York, of architectural bargaining and bickering that has produced gems like Rockefeller Center, duds (let's be honest now) like the World Trade Center and compromises like Lincoln Center and the United Nations.

    Not only is the record a rancorous one, but Mr. Libeskind and Mr. Childs are navigating challenges unlike any faced by their predecessors as they deal simultaneously with the most emotionally charged acreage in America, under daunting deadlines, for different clients, with few guideposts to define their roles. Much has been made of the contrast in personalities and portfolios between Mr. Childs of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, the tall and courtly insider from Westchester County, via Washington, perhaps best known for the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle; and Mr. Libeskind, the compact and voluble iconoclast from Poland, via the Bronx, who captured the world's attention with the Jewish Museum in Berlin. But this is far less important than the fact that Mr. Childs is working for a developer, Larry A. Silverstein, while Mr. Libeskind is working, through state agencies, for the governor.

    "What's different about Freedom Tower is not that it involves a collaboration, even a collaboration of two star architects," said Prof. Hilary Ballon, chairwoman of the art history and archaeology department at Columbia University, "but rather it involves two masters, and it hasn't been clearly established who's in charge."

    The most successful collaborations seem to have been those in which the participants had a precisely defined role. It also helped if there was someone in the room, or waiting in the next room, with the power to knock heads together when necessary.

    Rockefeller Center

    In the 1930's, John D. Rockefeller Jr. played that part at Rockefeller Center. Though John R. Todd managed the project and hired its architects, there was never any doubt as to who was actually in charge.

    "The architects cooperated on Rockefeller Center not because they wanted to but because they were paid by Mr. Rockefeller," said Wallace K. Harrison, one of the team of eight. Chief among that group was Raymond M. Hood, the ideas man, who was then enjoying the spotlight with his American Radiator Building and Daily News Building. Reinhard & Hofmeister were the office specialists. Harvey Wiley Corbett was tapped in part for "his ability to translate architectural terminology into ripe and impressive statements that could be dangled before the press and potential tenants," Daniel Okrent wrote in "Great Fortune: The Epic of Rockefeller Center" (Viking, 2003).

    Because all of the architects were involved in each of the center's buildings, it was "imperative that they eventually reach agreement" on the design, Victoria Newhouse wrote in "Wallace K. Harrison, Architect" (Rizzoli International Publications, 1989). In that sense, Rockefeller Center can be seen either as one of the first big instances of architecture-by-committee or a case of genuine collaboration. "People are always asking who designed Rockefeller Center," Harrison said. "Each of us answers, `I did.' "

    The United Nations

    At the United Nations, by contrast, Le Corbusier wound up saying, "I didn't." Representing France on an international design board that was convened in 1947 and headed by Harrison, the temperamental Le Corbusier quickly showed his contempt for the process during a meeting in which "he tore every scheme except his own from the boardroom walls in an extraordinary fit of rage and frustration," Ms. Newhouse wrote.

    Though Le Corbusier is credited with the slender and spatially isolated Secretariat, he was so disturbed by alterations to the plan that he publicly disavowed the attribution, saying he had been "stripped of all his rights, without conscience and without pity." He also lost his fights with Harrison, who insisted on reducing the horizontal area of the Conference Building by putting it on two levels and on forgoing the use of overhanging sun screens on the facade of the Secretariat.

    Harrison's victories came at a high cost, as he recounted when describing the decision-making process at the design board: "We got up to the last minute and ran into a dead end. One half believed in one thing and one half in another thing. I took the bull by the horns and made the decision. `You'll hate me for this,' I said, and I was right. Le Corbusier hasn't spoken to me since."

    Lincoln Center

    "This time I have refused to take that position," Harrison said in 1959, as he approached the design of Lincoln Center with five other architects. "I won't go through that damn thing again. It put me in the hospital for six months."

    But if peace wasn't achieved at the United Nations, why expect it at an arts center? While Harrison was working on the Metropolitan Opera House, his partner, Max Abramovitz, was working on Philharmonic Hall. Across the plaza, Mr. Johnson was designing the New York State Theater. The knife-wielding Saarinen was responsible for the Vivian Beaumont Theater, Pietro Belluschi for the Juilliard School and Gordon Bunshaft of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill for the Library and Museum of the Performing Arts.

    "Each architect was responsible only for his own part of the complex; each jealously guarded his autonomy, yet wanted a say in his neighbor's work," Ms. Newhouse wrote. "The situation encouraged the most negative kind of competitiveness."

    And it produced a complex that — despite its undeniable midcentury modernist charm — turned out far less sophisticated and successful than it might have been. "Some participants in the development of Lincoln Center attribute the problems to the weak role of Harrison, who refused to act as a strong leader, as he had done in other projects," Professor Ballon said. "It takes a leader and a clear vision to make a collaboration work."

    The World Trade Center

    Austin J. Tobin, the executive director of the Port Authority, was just that person in the original trade center project, with Nelson and David Rockefeller both in the background. And the vision was unambiguously enunciated by Guy F. Tozzoli, head of the authority's world trade department, when he told the reluctant architect, Minoru Yamasaki, in 1962: "President Kennedy is going to put a man on the moon. You're going to figure out a way to build me the tallest buildings in the world."

    The trouble was that Yamasaki had never built any more of a skyscraper than the 30-story Michigan Consolidated Gas Building in Detroit. Someone was needed "who knew the ins and outs of New York building codes and union rules," with a shop large and experienced enough "to do the drafting of the thousands of pages of detailed construction documents," James Glanz and Eric Lipton of The New York Times wrote in "City in the Sky: The Rise and Fall of the World Trade Center" (Times Books, 2003).

    That firm was Emery Roth & Sons. The collaboration turned out so congenially, Richard Roth Jr. said, that Yamasaki and the Roths later joined voluntarily to work on a project for the Defense Department in Washington, though it was unbuilt.

    Ground Zero

    The new World Trade Center already has a half dozen prominent architects associated with it in one way or another. Besides Mr. Libeskind and Mr. Childs, Santiago Calatrava, Norman Foster, Fumihiko Maki and Jean Nouvel have all been tapped. More players will emerge Wednesday when prospective memorial designs go on display in the Winter Garden at Battery Park City.

    And in a month, the world will see the result of the new round of designs for the Freedom Tower by Studio Daniel Libeskind and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. If they succeed, they will have overcome considerable odds. "The conflict between Libeskind and Childs reproduces the conflict between Pataki, who wants an iconic tower to echo the asymmetric salute of the Statue of Liberty, and Silverstein, who wants to maximize rentable floor space," Professor Ballon said. "It makes sense for Libeskind and Childs to hold their ground until it's resolved who's in charge of Freedom Tower: the governor or the developer. Their power struggle is being displaced onto the architects. The idea that the architects can resolve their differences through a bargaining process, as if this were a labor negotiation, is misguided."

    Mr. Libeskind is actually working both for Silverstein Properties on the Freedom Tower and, in his overarching role as master site planner, for the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

    To complicate matters further, Studio Daniel Libeskind and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill were briefly competitors. They were both named in December 2002 to propose a master plan for the site. Skidmore, serving as an umbrella for a loose collaborative of architects and artists, dropped out a month later to work exclusively for Silverstein Properties. In February 2003, Mr. Libeskind was awarded the planning contract. His plan came complete with a 1,776-foot skyscraper that Mr. Pataki called the Freedom Tower.

    Despite Mr. Silverstein's public endorsement of the plan, he wanted little to do with Mr. Libeskind's particular tower design, in part because Mr. Libeskind — shades of Yamasaki — had never before built a skyscraper. So he gave the job to Mr. Childs, saying that "whatever is done here will clearly involve Dan as part of a peer group to ensure the quality of the design."

    An effort to clarify matters in July resulted in the designation of Skidmore as "design architect and project manager, leading a project team that will design the tower." Studio Daniel Libeskind, already the "master plan architect" for the trade center, would be "collaborating architect during the concept and schematic design phases" and a "full member of the project team" working on Freedom Tower. Got that?

    They didn't.

    As Mr. Childs interprets it, he is the lead architect — more than just first among equals — responsible for a coherent and original design of his own that reflects Mr. Libeskind's plan but is not dictated by it. In this view, Mr. Libeskind is not so much a collaborator as a commentator who can critique the Skidmore design without unilaterally altering it. (The public has no role to play; Mr. Childs's design is secret.)

    Mr. Libeskind, meanwhile, regards his concept for the Freedom Tower as integral to the overall vision of the trade center site, one that has been endorsed and embraced by the public. As such, he had insisted that it should be the basic framework on which Skidmore makes refinements, though he now may be willing to split the difference by allowing Skidmore to morph the design with that drawn up by Mr. Childs.

    When Governor Pataki gave them their deadline last month, he effectively told the architects that, from now on, he was their client. And he invited them to feats of greatness by summoning the collaboration between Mies van der Rohe and Philip Johnson on the Seagram Building. Yet the governor stopped shy of saying who should play Mies, the undisputed creative force, and who should play Mr. Johnson, whose role at Seagram was vital but subsidiary.

    Until someone makes that distinction more explicit, Mr. Childs and Mr. Libeskind may continue to struggle. But given clearly defined roles, Mr. Roth said, almost anything is possible. He recalled producing the construction drawings for the Portland Public Services Building of 1982 in Portland, Ore., by Michael Graves. "I was never a fan of post-modernism and therefore, the building didn't appeal to me," Mr. Roth allowed. "But we did the best job we could to make Michael's design work."

    The Lincoln Center team, from left, Edward Mathews, Philip Johnson, Jo Mielziner, John D. Rockefeller 3rd, Wallace K. Harrison, Eero Saarinen, Gordon Bunshaft, Max Abramovitz and Pietro Belluschi.

    Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

  7. #157


    November 16, 2003

    Who's Co-Designing What for Co-Whom?


    Though the ground zero matchup between David M. Childs and Daniel Libeskind is the highest-profile example, more than a few major collaborative architectural efforts are now under way in Manhattan. On West 53rd Street, Yoshio Taniguchi, the exacting Japanese modernist, is paired with the corporate workhorse firm Kohn Pedersen Fox on the expansion of the Museum of Modern Art. Nearing completion at Columbus Circle, the Time Warner Center by Mr. Childs contains Rafael Viñoly's performance spaces for Jazz at Lincoln Center, nestled inside like a marshmallow chick embedded within a chocolate egg. More recently, in a current competition for a new building at the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Art and Science, Zaha Hadid, the London architect known for explosively fragmented forms, has matched up with Beyer Blinder Belle, a firm whose name has become synonymous with underachieving since its plans for ground zero were rejected by the public.

    As collaborations become so much a part of business as usual, architects are struggling to figure out terms of engagement that they can live with. At the Museum of Modern Art, the setup is fairly standard: famous out-of-town architect is attached to local stalwart who will see the job through. Mr. Taniguchi said by e-mail that he would have preferred being the sole architect. And Kohn Pedersen Fox does not normally see itself as second fiddle.

    "For collaborations to work it is mandatory that one party work in support of the other and not compete," William Pedersen, a firm partner, said. "And so when we were asked to take on the assignment by MoMA, it raised questions in our mind. We are design architects, not production architects." They settled for "executive architect," a relatively new title that lends verbal dignity to a position somewhere between the starring role of design architect and the facilitators, known as the architects of record.

    According to Robert Ivy, the editor in chief of Architectural Record, the title has come into currency recently and reflects a change in the way architects do business. "It is not just a euphemism," he said, adding that while "architect of record" implied a subservient role to the so-called design architect, "executive architect suggests an active, informed daily presence" that might include contributing to the design.

    For The New York Times building on Eighth Avenue, Renzo Piano, based in Europe, is the design architect and Fox & Fowle of New York are calling themselves the co-architects, according to a spokesperson there. To confuse matters more, design publications usually refer to them as the executive architects, and sometimes name one, sometimes the other when referring to the architect of the building. The array of titles on the job, Mr. Ivy admitted, "is beginning to sound like a menu."

    Not surprisingly, these partnerships are often awkward and fraught with tension. To Mr. Viñoly, the Manhattan architect, the prospect of having to collaborate on a single building with another ambitious architect would be, he said, akin to "asking two surgeons to share the scalpel when operating on a patient."

    Mr. Viñoly, of course, was a member of the Think team, the group of architects — ranging from Frederic Schwartz of Manhattan to Shigeru Ban of Tokyo — whose design lost out to Mr. Libeskind's in the final stages of the ground zero competition. Even so, Mr. Viñoly said, he'd rather "go back to playing the piano" than share responsibility as executive architect.

    Mr. Viñoly runs an office of 170 people. Size is part of his strategy to avoid undesirable collaborations, even on large-scale projects. While it no doubt takes many players to get anything built, Mr. Viñoly said that "working with other people is harder than anything else in the world and top-heavy collaborations are a recipe for disaster."

    The real problem, he said, is that all too often developers opt for collaborations when they can't make up their minds about what they really want. He described the performance spaces for Jazz at Lincoln Center at Columbus Circle not as a collaboration but as a building nested within a building — a situation that was forced on the project by Rudolph Giuliani, then mayor of New York, to provide the corporate behemoth with a public amenity.

    Downtown, the 2001 collaboration of Prada's star architects — Rem Koolhaas and Herzog & deMeuron — on a boutique hotel for the impresario Ian Schrager in the East Village was an instant media sensation. But the design never went beyond the widely printed image of a tattooed obelisk.

    Jacques Herzog of the Swiss team Herzog & deMeuron said that his firm generally preferred joining forces with artists, rather than architects, so that "the client knows who is the boss." Still, he would welcome the chance to do it all over again with Mr. Koolhaas because he is on the "same level intellectually and artistically."

    There is no architecture without collaboration, said Mr. Koolhaas, the Dutch architect who is a guru to an entire generation of intellectually aspiring architects, not to mention research assistants. Mr. Koolhaas, who is known to fly into imperious rages over artistic integrity, added that of course it works only if the partners involved are aesthetic equals as well. Mr. Koolhaas attributed the hotel collaboration's ultimate failure not to the economy, as was suggested at the time, nor to a rumored falling out with Mr. Schrager.

    Instead, Mr. Koolhaas said, "Perhaps having the two of us together in one room was too overwhelming for the client."

    Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

  8. #158


    NY Times...

    Mr. Libeskind, meanwhile, regards his concept for the Freedom Tower as integral to the overall vision of the trade center site, one that has been endorsed and embraced by the public. As such, he had insisted that it should be the basic framework on which Skidmore makes refinements, though he now may be willing to split the difference by allowing Skidmore to morph the design with that drawn up by Mr. Childs.
    What - no more statue of liberty?

  9. #159


    "one that has been endorsed and embraced by the public"


    Oh, please. Everyone I know thinks Libeskind's design is a huge waste of public money, not to mention bad architecture.

  10. #160


    Well I wouldn't go so far as to say "Bad Architecture", I wouldn't call it "Great" like it should be for the World Trade Center, but its not bad. Although the quote is misleading, since Foster's design was far more popular.

  11. #161


    November 23, 2003


    A Camel in the Sky?


    Over two years ago, the New York skyline lost some of its soul in the destruction of the World Trade Towers. To see the city without those towers is to see a stranger.

    But there is cause for hope in the efforts to build a new downtown, particularly with the Freedom Tower, envisioned as the heart of a new World Trade Center. If those charged with its design and construction can find a way to create a truly remarkable structure, they will have given the city a gift that far surpasses any psychic repair. Yet what is officially a collaborative effort has struck many people as more of a brawl, so much so that Gov. George E. Pataki has set a deadline of Dec. 15 for the warring architects Daniel Libeskind and David M. Childs to agree on a design.

    Will the Freedom Tower benefit most from being decided by committee or by a few individuals holding true to their visions? In a look back at the past century of skyscraper development, it becomes powerfully clear that building by committee was not the route by which the city's greatest structures came to define the skyline.

    In fact, if it hadn't been for a few brave souls believing otherwise, New York might never have had skyscrapers in the first place. After the opening of the headquarters of The New York World, a building 309 feet tall, on Park Row in 1890, an architect named Harvey Wiley Corbett commented: "Architects said nothing would be higher; engineers said nothing could be higher; city planners said nothing should be higher; and owners said nothing higher would pay."

    These assorted groups were quickly proved wrong as the city moved into the 20th century, particularly as skyscrapers became a way for their owners to make their pre-eminence known. And few owners had more to say than Frank Woolworth, the five-and-dime king. He financed his skyscraper out of his own pocket to ensure he answered to no one in constructing his tower. His builder pleaded with this modern Croesus to consider the return on investment. But when the architect, Cass Gilbert, asked him how high to design his skyscraper, Woolworth replied, "How high can you make it?"

    Gilbert answered, "It is for you to make the limit.'' At the time the Metropolitan Life Insurance tower was the city's tallest building at 700 feet. Woolworth gave his architect one order: make it higher than the Metropolitan tower.

    At 792 feet tall, the resulting structure was the world's biggest advertisement. Beyond the height requirement, Gilbert was given the freedom to exercise his many talents in the design of this Cathedral of Commerce, producing a skyscraper that was not only the world's tallest, but also a statement in elegance with its soaring tower and terra-cotta facade.

    In 1929, the automobile innovator Walter Chrysler set out to steal the height crown from Woolworth. This was the zenith of the Roaring Twenties, a decade when anything and everything seemed possible. Moreover, Chrysler's architect, William Van Alen, was an individualist and a maverick. Upon his return from studying in Paris, Van Alen announced: "No old stuff for me! No bestial copyings of arches and columns and cornices! Me, I'm new! Avanti!"

    For Van Alen, designing a tall building was the easy part. He wanted to express the spirit of the times in steel and stone. He put aside convention and designed a shimmering tower with a spire that seemed to pierce the clouds at 1,046 feet high.

    There was nothing timid in his plans, an approach that earned him the ire of the public and architectural establishment. The Chrysler Building was excoriated as a "stunt design," and some people hoped that all that exposed steel was merely "temporary construction." But Van Alen and Chrysler understood the power of standing out by pushing the boundaries of design. They consulted only with one another, muting all other voices. The enduring influence of their building is a result.

    Their rival at the time in the battle to the build the world's tallest skyscraper was the Manhattan Company Building on 40 Wall Street. The execution of the design was a contrast to the lone-owner-and-architect collaborations of the Chrysler and Woolworth Buildings; in fact, it was a classic case of decision by committee. The cast included the banker and developer George Ohrstrom, Manhattan Company board members and the builders William and Paul Starrett. Each had his own architect who weighed in on the project. Decisions on height and design passed through this committee.

    THEIR result was a doleful compromise toward the middle. The Manhattan Company Building neither won the height race (it topped out at 925 feet) nor managed much of an impact in its design (a French Gothic spinoff with a copper pyramidal crown). Although it is the city's fourth-tallest building, one would be hard pressed to find many people who could point it out.

    The Empire State Building could have suffered a similar fate of anonymity if not for one powerful figure: John Jacob Raskob. The shadow of the Great Depression was advancing on New York in 1929, and there were many pitfalls during the Empire State's construction. Not the least of its challenges was a team of architects and moneyed interests on the board, each with his own idea of what should rise on the site of the former Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.

    But the Empire State's leader, Raskob, a publicity-shy man who had helped create the giant that was General Motors, navigated these pitfalls by making it clear he was in charge. He silenced calls to back down from his ambitious plans, despite a real estate market plunging toward disaster.

    His monumental skyscraper was to be a symbol of what the poor could achieve in America, and he wanted this symbol represented by an eye-catching, original design. To achieve this, he clearly managed the reins of control.

    He appointed William Lamb, an architect in whose abilities he had great faith, to be responsible for the design. As for the final word on the form and scale of the building that would rise on 34th Street and Fifth Avenue, this was for Raskob alone to declare. This business titan who signed his letters "John J. Raskob, Capitalist" knew that decision by committee would result only in tepid solutions. He understood better than most the words of the great Chicago architect Daniel Burnham: "Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men's blood and probably themselves will not be realized."

    The rebuilding efforts downtown face an infinitely more complex set of circumstances than these skyscrapers of the past. In a sense, we all own a piece of what is to be constructed in the place of the World Trade Center. But if history reveals anything, it is that an awe-inspiring design is a result of a few individuals standing up and following their own course.

    The New York City skyline is punctuated by boldness. The architects who imagined these towers, and the owners who realized them, had to contend with jealous rivals, architectural critics, skeptical financiers, contrarian board members and wary public officials to see their structures stand. Only the most stalwart held to their visions, in both height and style.

    Their legacies are the landmarks that define this city, both to those who live here and those who dream of coming. To see such structures as the Woolworth Building, the Chrysler Building or the Empire State Building is to see New York itself.

    Neal Bascomb is the author of "Higher: A Historic Race to the Sky and the Making of a City,'' published last month by Doubleday.

    Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

  12. #162


    Two Architects Whip Up Tower In Mad Frenzy

    by Blair Golson

    The signature tower of the rebuilt World Trade Center is taking shape, and not a moment too soon. With scant three weeks left, the two architectural teams working together on the tower—one led by World Trade Center leaseholder Larry Silverstein’s architect David Childs, the other by Ground Zero master planner Daniel Libeskind—have been engaged in intense, seven-day-a-week meetings aimed at reconciling each side’s competing vision for the Freedom Tower, which is to be the tallest of five skyscrapers to rise from the ashes of Ground Zero.

    Although many aspects of the proposed new tower are still in flux, several features are consistent to every recent draft rendering of the tower. Surviving from Mr. Libeskind’s original proposal is the asymmetrical shape of the tower, along with its narrow spire feature, both of which are meant to simulate the torchbearing arm of the Statue of Liberty seen from the harbor. Also surviving is the slanted roof that gives a spiraling sweep to the shape of the circle of the five skyscrapers, of descending height, called for in his master plan.

    In a bow to Mr. Childs’ design, the building will most likely twist as it rises, although it’s not clear at this point when the building will right itself vertically, nor to what degree.

    Other major considerations, like the height of the building, the materials to be used for the exterior, and other aesthetic and engineering questions, remain to be decided. But the major stumbling blocks seem to have been overcome, and both sides now say they’re confident they’ll be able to meet the Mr. Pataki’s Dec. 15 deadline.

    They were off to a late start. After agreeing in July to a scheme that made Mr. Childs the lead architect for the building and Mr. Libeskind a "collaborator" on the project, each man spent weeks developing his own version of the tower without setting foot on common ground.

    It wasn’t till a month ago, when Mr. Silverstein—under orders from development authorities—gave the two a blistering knuckle-rapping for refusing to work together, that the real work began.

    "What essentially happened is that Childs and Libeskind abandoned their rigid adherence to their designs to try to come up with another building that incorporates the best of both," said Mr. Libeskind’s lawyer, Ed Hayes, who has seen early drafts of the new tower.

    To be sure, it’s still an awkward union of dueling egos—what Mr. Libeskind referred to as a "forced marriage." But this marriage is almost full-term on what is hoped will be the world’s tallest building, with a due date of Dec. 15.

    "At Larry Silverstein’s insistence and through a collaboration with Studio Daniel Libeskind, we are rapidly resolving these issues and will finalize a conceptual design by December 15th, thereby keeping to the Governor’s timetable," Mr. Childs told The Observer in an e-mail.

    Rocky Marriage

    Things weren’t looking so rosy a month ago. On Oct. 28, a furious Mr. Silverstein had a meeting with Mr. Childs, Mr. Libeskind and his wife, Nina Libeskind, in which the developer pounded the table and said: "There’s no more time for personal or design differences. We need to come together on a consensus design in a couple of weeks."

    Headlines about the two sides’ competing visions for the Freedom Tower had been raging in the papers for the previous week. Mr. Silverstein was playing the role of mediator and motivator-in-chief because he had gained control of the Trade Center site in the summer of 2001, only a few weeks before terrorists destroyed the twin towers on Sept. 11. Mr. Libeskind entered the picture in February when Governor Pataki overrode the previously influential site-planning committee of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation to annoint the Polish-born architect to design the site’s master plan.

    Officially, Mr. Childs came on the scene on July 16, when Mr. Silverstein selected him to design the Freedom Tower. But from the very day of the Sept. 11 attack, the architects of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill—who were forced to flee their own downtown offices—had been working out designs, in their heads or on paper, for their client Mr. Silverstein. Moreover, the firm had already been Mr. Silverstein’s choice to upgrade the ground-level facilities at the complex, sprucing it up for potential renters. The relationship between the firm and the developer strengthened considerably in those days immediately following the attack.

    From the beginning, the stage was set for strife. Both architects entered with enormous reputations and outsized egos, but it wasn’t clear who would be the last word on design matters for the Freedom Tower. According to an agreement that both men worked out in July, Mr. Childs was to be lead architect on the Freedom Tower; Mr. Libeskind was to collaborate, making sure that the building fit into the master plan. Mr. Libeskind, perhaps best known for his design of the Jewish Museum in Berlin, is an acclaimed designer of visionary structures that challenge the status quo, but he has little experience with erecting massive commercial projects. Mr. Childs, who recently completed the massive, twin-towered Time Warner Center, is a world-renowned leader of commercial projects, but critics complain that he makes too many aesthetic sacrifices to his clients.

    The War Room

    For the last month, the 23rd floor of S.O.M.’s headquarters at 14 Wall Street has been home to nearly 50 architects, engineers, designers and consultants who have been working on various aspects of the Freedom Tower. Four of the 50 are employees of Studio Daniel Libeskind (not including Daniel and Nina themselves). S.O.M. employs the rest, approximately 10 of whom are full-time, with the remainder being part-time specialty consultants.

    The office floor is a huge white room with no divider, and almost every wall can be used as a pin-up board. Conferences take place in two smaller rooms off to the side. Days start at 8 in the morning and sometimes go well into the next morning.

    "The atmosphere is intense. It’s professional work; it’s pros focusing on the tasks at hand on tight deadline constraints," said a member of the S.O.M team. "The theater you see in newspapers is absent in this room …. There are occasional strong differences of opinion, but this is a highly professional group."

    A source within the Libeskind camp, however, said that as recently as the end of last week, tensions between the two sides were somewhat more apparent: Mr. Childs was characterized as stubborn in his desire to flout the design principles that form the basis of the Libeskind design.

    It is a claim that sources in the Childs camp vigorously dispute, though off the record, there are no shortage of countercharges. Daniel and Nina Libeskind are currently traveling in Hong Kong and were unavailable for comment.

    Regardless, the source in the Libeskind camp said that any such tensions evaporated over the course of several marathon meetings this weekend.

    If the road to this consensus has been twisted and laden with pitfalls, it is in no small part due to the aggressive timetable that Mr. Pataki laid out for the two competing sides. The Governor badly wants construction to start before the Republican National Convention comes to town in August—and if that means banging heads together, so be it.

    "The Governor has done everything but take family members as hostages to make sure that this project moves along," said Mr. Hayes, a longtime friend and adviser of Mr. Pataki’s. "Pataki is staking his whole place in history on this project. This is as large a historical project as anything in our history. The only one that compares is the rebuilding of Washington after the British burned it in 1812, at least in this country. Even the earthquake in San Francisco or the Chicago fire didn’t have the same public significance as this. In both those cases, they were basically just replacing what was there. This is something where they’re going to put in a whole new public infrastructure in a very important part of New York City in a very visible way."

    You may reach Blair Golson via email at:

    This column ran on page 1 in the 12/1/2003 edition of The New York Observer.

  13. #163


    From the observer article...

    Although many aspects of the proposed new tower are still in flux, several features are consistent to every recent draft rendering of the tower.

    Surviving from Mr. Libeskind’s original proposal is the asymmetrical shape of the tower, along with its narrow spire feature, both of which are meant to simulate the torchbearing arm of the Statue of Liberty seen from the harbor. Also surviving is the slanted roof that gives a spiraling sweep to the shape of the circle of the five skyscrapers, of descending height, called for in his master plan.

    In a bow to Mr. Childs’ design, the building will most likely twist as it rises, although it’s not clear at this point when the building will right itself vertically, nor to what degree.
    Oh well. There goes any hope of getting something more dominant on the site. New York will get is new statue of liberty after all. And that's what we really needed.

  14. #164


    NY TIMES...

    Vision vs. Symbols and Politics at Ground Zero

    November 29, 2003

    Although it failed to produce a work of genius, the competition to design a memorial to the victims of 9/11 was well worth undertaking. It threw into sharp relief three problems that have plagued the ground zero design process. Too much symbolism. Not enough time. A breakdown of cultural authority.

    Until precise steps are taken to resolve all three issues, the design process will continue to sink deeper and deeper into political quicksand.

    These issues are, of course, related. If the design process were not held hostage to the fast-track timetable approved by Gov. George E. Pataki, there would be less pressure to substitute symbolic manipulation for thought. If the timetable were not tied, however coincidentally, to the Republican National Convention to be held in New York in August, there would be less temptation to mistake politics for culture.

    Something's got to give, and give soon. Otherwise, fiasco looms.

    I give it about two weeks. Until Dec. 15, to be precise. That's the due date for a preliminary design of Freedom Tower, the first of the commercial skyscrapers scheduled to be built on the World Trade Center site.

    And what rough corporate headquarters, its hour come round at last, slouches toward lower Manhattan to be born?

    Much mirth was made in August, when it was announced that the design of Freedom Tower would be a collaboration between David M. Childs, of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, and Daniel Libeskind, master planner of ground zero. How could two such conspicuously different architects possibly see eye to eye on the shape of a bedpost, much less the look of the tallest earthly construction yet raised by humankind?

    Technically, Mr. Childs was given the upper hand. As "design" architect to Mr. Libeskind's "collaborating" architect, he has held theoretical power to veto his partner's suggestions. But it turns out that Mr. Libeskind alone wields something called "the Libeskind Vision," which he alone can interpret for the rest of us.

    To a cynic, the vision might appear to be a tool whose primary function is to establish Mr. Libeskind's right to design Freedom Tower without meddling by others. But we are assured by Mr. Libeskind that the vision is spiritual in nature. Others have called it art.

    Indeed, in some circles, the notion has taken hold that the Libeskind Vision should be seen as a bulwark against the spiritual impoverishment of a commercial society. Fragile though it may be, and all the more deserving of our support on account of its frailty, the Libeskind Vision is virtually all that stands between us and the coils of materialism, represented here by New York real estate developers and the architects who cravenly submit to their wanton demands.

    In this high biblical comedy, Mr. Childs and his client, Larry A. Silverstein, have been cast in the role of twin Goliaths to Mr. Libeskind's David. The twins represent the profane world of leases, legal battles, profit-taking, slick buildings and the billions it takes to pay for them. David represents art and spirit — a Wedge of Light!

    As farcical as this scenario is, Mr. Libeskind emerges as a sympathetic figure despite himself: a victim of the dream he must have wished for.

    By that, I am not referring to his commission as ground zero's master planner. Terrible as this responsibility must be, worse fates can befall an architect with few completed buildings to his credit. But I'm thinking about a wish practically universal among architects: the desire for a dream client, who writes the checks and forever after holds his tongue.

    But dreams often turn rapidly into nightmares. The ideal patron can turn out to be the client from hell.

    At ground zero, the ideal patron arrived earlier this year in the form of Governor Pataki. He has been paving the road with good intentions ever since.

    The support of the governor has turned out to more damaging than any opposition from the Goliaths of commerce. That, in my view, is because of politics.

    As the Republican convention approaches, it is a reminder of how political the ground zero process has been.

    As Adam Nagourney reported in The New York Times in January, the events of 9/11 were crucial to New York's sales pitch to the Bush administration to play host to the convention. "What we focused on was that New York was the best background for the convention, growing out of the events of Sept. 11," Roland W. Betts, a member of the committee of Republicans assembled by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg to lobby the White House, told Mr. Nagourney. "The alternatives were inappropriate. Florida would have been all about the last election, and we would have to relive hanging chads."

    The story illustrates the degree to which cultural and political decisions cannot be viewed in isolation.

    Politics, art, propaganda and advertising all deal with the manipulation of images. In Mr. Libeskind's vision, Freedom Tower is represented as the Statue of Liberty's landlocked twin, a stylized figure with arm held aloft to hold a broadcasting antenna. It's a kitschy idea and might be likable for that, were it possible to separate the image from politics.

    But in this context, the Statue of Liberty is not a politically neutral symbol, any more than the word patriot is a politically neutral term when used to name an act of Congress. It is a logo: the visual icon of a national brand that does not entice all shoppers.

    With its symbolic height of 1,776 feet and its upraised arm, the Freedom Tower is a piece of bombast. It responds in a particular way to a particular event. It is being forced upon us, by public officials whose political agendas are hardly obscure. And it does not speak for those of us who believe it is wrong to nationalize ground zero symbolically.

    Mr. Libeskind may be right to insist, as he did in an interview in the spring with Gabe Pressman on WNBC-TV, that some symbols are too powerful to be appropriated by particular groups. But while Mr. Libeskind may deny that he is an instrument of the state, he has become one nonetheless, appropriating symbols for political use.

    Let me be clear: I am not suggesting that Mr. Libeskind was cynically appealing to the beliefs of public officials when he was devising his symbolic vocabulary. Nor am I saying that he would knowingly conspire with politicians to create a re-election billboard.

    But public officials have failed to reckon with the political connotations of this design vocabulary. If Governor Pataki were truly a good client, he would have pointed out that even words and images with innocent intentions can easily be read as partisan.

    I can't imagine a successful design for Freedom Tower until these issues of meaning are sorted out. Mr. Libeskind's vision emerged from a study of ideas, not a design competition. If our officials want to attain the cultural authority they clearly seek, much more study is needed.

    Recall the terms set in February, when Mr. Libeskind was chosen to help the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation design a master plan. There was no "winning plan." Rather, the design study was in the nature of a job audition to hire an architect or a team to help prepare one.

    The job description did not include the design of individual buildings. Mr. Libeskind stated then: "It has to be done by different architects. That's the way New York was built."

    The study project stood for something valuable: the hope that ideas could find their way in the modern world.

    The inclusion of Mr. Libeskind was also a sign of hope. He represented a potential that his designs for ground zero have yet to fulfill. But now there is nobody there to say no. Bad choice. Try it another way. This is not O.K. That's better. Almost. Start over. Again. Thus has Mr. Libeskind denied himself the creative freedom to think things through in the light of history.

    I doubt Mr. Libeskind wants to be locked into this position. But there he is, alone with his symbols and his interpretations of them. What I am hearing very clearly right now is the sound of someone who doesn't know how to ask for help.

    The Statue of Liberty's iconic arm is echoed in Daniel Libeskind's tower.

  15. #165

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