A Plus for Ground Zero

The designs unveiled Wednesday to remake the World Trade Center site are far more varied than the first round of submissions. They range from giant towers that would be the tallest in the world to far less conventional forms, including a floating memorial to Sept. 11 victims on the Hudson River.

Now it's time for New Yorkers - who live and work in their city every day - to offer their own valuable insight to the razzle-dazzle world of geometric shapes that may make architectural statements but still must work to become functional, integral parts of daily life in the Big Apple.

They'll have to consider how the designs integrate the city's cutting-edge sensibilities with utility, and at the same time, they'll need to make sure they respectfully commemorate the individual's who lost their lives in the Sept. 11 tragedy. The city's public-spiritedness and strong sense of place should carry the best design forward.

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The seven teams of architects presenting nine different plans for the 16-acre site had freer range than the first group was allowed. Constricted by space requirements, that first batch of designs turned out to be pretty bland, at least in the renderings. And they were rejected by a thoughtful public invited to judge them. In Round 2, firms from around the globe were allowed to compete with fewer restrictions, opening up the competition to much more imagination.

Planners also asked for ideas to "enhance residential life to create a strong sense of community." Indeed, elements within these designs could well become models for urban planners across the country.

The deadline to choose a plan is Jan. 31, but more time may be needed for comment since these designs were unveiled just before the holidays. Non-New Yorkers will have a chance to weigh in, too. The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation will put the designs on its website Friday at www.renewnyc.org.

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