Monday, December 22, 2003

The Culture: New Tower Design for WTC Site Unveiled

I’m unimpressed with the recently revealed “Freedom Tower” now slated to replace the destroyed World Trade Center.

The signature skyscraper at the World Trade Center site will be a 1,776-foot glass tower that twists into the sky, topped by energy-generating windmills and a spire that evokes the Statue of Liberty, new plans revealed Friday.

Saying it will "dramatically reclaim" the Manhattan skyline on the plot where the twin towers once stood, Mayor Michael Bloomberg joined the architects and Gov. George E. Pataki in unveiling the plans for the Freedom Tower. Pataki said the building "will show the world that freedom will always triumph over terror."

The drawings and models show what will be the world's tallest skyscraper, supported by crisscrossing cables meant to resemble another nearby icon: the Brooklyn Bridge. The spire at the top suggests the torch-bearing arm of Lady Liberty lifted high in New York harbor.

The plan was produced after months of contentious negotiations between Daniel Libeskind, who designed the overall five-building site plan, and David Childs, the lead architect for the Freedom Tower.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Libeskind held the new building plan at arm's length.

"We have very different approaches and ideas," he said, calling the revised Freedom Tower "Mr. Childs' building." Still, he said the two were able to compromise on important aspects such as the building's height and the 276-foot spire at its peak.

"At the end we both came up with something that is strong," he said.

The new design eliminates some of the angular shapes in Libeskind's original drawings, replaces Libeskind's visions of gardens atop the office space with windmills, and gives the building more of a twisting shape.

Childs said the tower is "iconic, simple and pure in its form, a memorable form that will reclaim the resilience and the spirit of our democracy."

The plan would create an open area above 70 floors of office space, with observation decks and a reprise of the Windows on the World restaurant that once occupied upper floors of the trade center's 110-story north tower. The windmills would provide 20 percent to 40 percent of the building's energy. [AP]
Freedom Tower attempts to fill the void left by the destruction of the World Trade Center, yet falls woefully short. Two 110 story office buildings are not replaced by a 1,776 foot tall tower with only 60 floors of productive space and a bunch of windmills at the top.

First of all, the proposed design is ugly. The strong symmetry of the World Trade Center has been replaced by a host of confused angles. The latticework of the Central tower offers the appearance of a ghost of a building—not a real structure. The interior seems designed for the sole purpose of mystifying the visitor. The only notable exterior feature of the adjoining buildings is the angles of their loped-off crowns. And windmills? Their inclusion is laughable at best and a source of vibration and noise at worst.

Secondly, the architects seem to acknowledge the importance of creating a structure taller then the original World Trade Center, yet their design is only a tower, not a full, productive building. It is a shell of a building, serving to replace the original towers only in size, but not in function.

The destruction of the World Trade Center is a tragedy, and it deserves to be remembered appropriately on-site. But after all the contemplation and tears, the best way to remember those lost is to see a new building to emerge from the ruins like a phoenix—a full, proud building that does not abandon the original World Trade Center’s purpose, but expands upon it. To answer Bin Laden properly, the new World Trade Center ought to be everything the former World Trade Center was and more: a center for capitalism, art, remembrance and rededication. Such a building ought to say that we will never lose sight of those lost on 9/11, yet our spirit goes on, undeterred and unbowed.

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