- The Washington Times - Friday, February 28, 2003

NEW YORK A memorial pit and the world's tallest building are the centerpieces of the architectural design selected for the World Trade Center site, city and state officials announced yesterday.

The plan, "Gardens of the World" by architect Daniel Libeskind, includes "vertical gardens" that rise 1,776 feet above the ground, a memorial to the 2,800 victims of September 11 and a design feature that will allow sunlight to shine into a designated space only on the anniversary of the terrorist attacks.

The design by the Polish-born Mr. Libeskind, who is based in Berlin, won out over a plan by the New York architects of Think that called for two latticework structures, eerily recalling the 110-story towers destroyed in the 2001 attacks.

A skyscraper "rises above its predecessors, reasserting the pre-eminence of freedom and beauty … and speaks to our vitality in the face of danger and our optimism in the aftermath of tragedy-life victorious," said Mr. Libeskind, who designed the new Jewish Museum in Berlin.

Mr. Libeskind's tower surpasses Malaysia's 1,483-foot-tall Petronas Twin Towers, now the tallest buildings in the world.

The final choice was made by a committee that included the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. (LMDC), the Port Authority, Republican Gov. George E. Pataki and Republican Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.

It will serve as a master land-use plan for the site.

Nine proposals were submitted from architects around the world after the initial set of plans, released in July, was criticized for having too much office space and no character. Two designs made it to the finals.

"Our greatest challenge has been to restore a sense of optimism to a city still suffering from a savage attack and to create a planning process to address the wishes of so many stakeholders," said Lou Tomson, president of the LMDC.

One of those stakeholders, Larry Silverstein, who holds the lease to the World Trade Center site, sat in the front row of the Winter Garden theater as officials announced their choice. Mr. Silverstein and the LMDC have feuded repeatedly over who controls the design process.

As the developer, Mr. Silverstein has hired his own architect, lending credence to the general belief that the Libeskind design would be changed substantially. The developer is on record as saying he thinks all the designs do not provide enough office space.

The Libeskind plan, a complex of angled buildings, also calls for a transit hub with a performing-arts center, underground malls and restaurants and an elevated walkway around the perimeter.

The open pit, or "bathtub," is a seven-acre chasm of the original World Trade Center site about 90 feet below ground level. Concrete walls holding back the Hudson River enclose it.

Victims' relatives, a powerful voice in the rebuilding project, favor this feature because it allows for a large memorial.

The winner of a separate design competition for the memorial is to be selected by September 11 this year.

The design also calls for a "Wedge of Light," an architectural feature that will allow the sun to shine directly into a special space each September 11 between the hours of 8:46 a.m., when the first hijacked airplane hit the Twin Towers, and 10:28 a.m., the instant of the second tower's collapse.

Some relatives of those who died in the attack were worried about suggestions to raise the bedrock under the memorial.

"The proposal to put a bus depot under the memorial over the site where 2,800 people's blood was shed defiles the sanctity of the site," said Carol Ashley, whose daughter died in the terrorist attack.

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