WTC plan: soaring spire over 'sacred ground'
The design, building the world's tallest tower, embodies a determination to rise beyond 9/11.
New York has always stood tall. This is a city that moves up, and not out.Skip to next paragraph
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It's no place for false modesty.
So despite post-attack talk of shorter being safer, those charged with rebuilding the World Trade Center site chose Daniel Libeskind as architect. His design thrusts a towering glass spire a symbolic 1,776 feet into the sky, higher than any other building in the world.
In Mr. Libeskind's words, his creation reasserts "the preeminence of freedom and beauty, restoring the spiritual peak to the city, creating an icon that speaks of our vitality in the face of danger and our optimism in the aftermath of tragedy."
Now, those are bragging rights. Something New Yorkers like to have but don't necessarily need to show off. Indeed, for most of the 20th century, New York was home to the tallest building in the world. But you won't see many natives gawking up at the shining tips of the Empire State or Chrysler buildings - each in its own time titleholder to top spot. New Yorkers just like to know they're there. They're part of the city's soul.
"In New York, the cathedrals are the tall buildings," says Kenneth Jackson, president of the New York Historical Society. "The city was founded as New Amsterdam, and its purpose was to make money. That entrepreneurial strain has run through the city's history for 400 years."
While Libeskind's design would continue the city's tradition of always reaching for the peak of achievement, it will also preserve part of the sunken pit and slurry walls that survived the Sept. 11 attacks that caused the original 1,350-foot-high twin towers to crumble.
Libeskind calls this "hallowed, sacred ground." It's where most of the body parts of the 2,800 people who were killed were found. There will be a park here. But the building is also designed so that each year on Sept. 11 - between 8:46 a.m., when the first plane struck, and 10:28 a.m., when the second tower fell - the sun will shine without shadow "in perpetual tribute to altruism and courage."
It was the sense of hope and inspiration that prompted the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., the Port Authority, and the offices of Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Gov. George Pataki to choose Libeskind's design, which is estimated to cost $330 million. It was chosen over the THINK Team's two latticework structures that rose where the old trade center stood.
Conrad Scott, who worked directly across from the World Trade Center on 9/11, says he felt "uncomfortable" with the scaffoldlike towers of the Think Team. "It's too much of a reminder." But he likes the Libeskind design because it doesn't try to "replicate what was there before" - and because it will create a record-breaker.
"You can give in or move on," he says. "So, you build either the tallest building in the world, or maybe the second-tallest building in world - not to be arrogant."