- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 5, 2003

NEW YORK Two architectural designs have reached the finals of an international competition to rebuild on the site of the World Trade Center.
Both designs would erect the tallest buildings in the world at the site.
The architects were chosen by the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., the agency overseeing the rebuilding of the site. Nine proposals for redeveloping the 16-acre site were revealed late last year.
One plan is a design by Berlin-based architect Daniel Libeskind. The second one is by THINK, a New York consortium of designers led by Fred Schwartz and Rafael Vinoly.
The Libeskind plan, a media favorite from the beginning, features a spire of “vertical gardens” installed in what would be the world’s tallest man-made structure, at 1,776 feet. It would also preserve as a memorial the exposed bedrock of the Trade Center foundation, which is a gaping hole at ground zero.
In the THINK proposal, cultural centers such as a museum and amphitheater are embedded at varying heights in two open-steel latticework towers reaching 1,665 feet. The skyscrapers, a reminder of the World Trade Center, would probably be part of a memorial.
The finalists each feature buildings surpassing Malaysia’s 1,483-foot Petronas Twin Towers, the tallest in the world. The Trade Center towers were 1,350 feet.
The final plan will be picked at the end of the month.
“We think all of us have made an extraordinary advance in the cause of architecture,” Mr. Vinoly said.
In the next four weeks, after the designers revise their work to meet certain building standards, a master land-use plan will be derived from the two designs. Design competition for a memorial to the 2,800 victims is a separate process, scheduled to be completed by September 11 of this year, the second anniversary of the terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon.
There are many serious roadblocks to overcome before a consensus is reached on a design. Of particular worry to the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. is Larry A. Silverstein, the developer who holds the lease to the property. Mr. Silverstein has charged that rebuilding officials are not acknowledging his right to rebuild the site the way he deems fit.
In a letter to Development Corp. Chairman John C. Whitehead last week, Mr. Silverstein said none of the designs for the site meets the city’s rebuilding requirements or its need for downtown office space. For safety reasons, he argued, no building should be more than 65 or 70 stories high.
Mr. Silverstein also indicated that he could make the rebuilding process difficult, perhaps impossible, and that he and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the site, have fundamental disagreements.
But Development Corp. member Roland W. Betts said at the news conference yesterday that he has been meeting with Mr. Silverstein and his architect. Mr. Betts said that Mr. Silverstein will consult with the two finalists chosen yesterday, and that “to the extent that his criticisms have validity, we’ll take them into account.”
Mr. Betts added, “No plan in its current iteration is perfect; they have to be modified in ways to make them work.” Mr. Betts sought to address specific issues, saying that Mr. Libeskind’s plan to preserve part of ground zero’s seven-story pit must also reinforce a wall holding back the Hudson River.
Mr. Libeskind said that although the final design should include “the essence of the tragedy, the lives that were lost,” it must also show the world that “life is victorious, that life is good and that in the face of these attacks there is vitality and optimism.”
Mr. Betts forecast that the rebuilding process would take 10 to 12 years.
Since the September 11 terrorist attacks that brought down the Twin Towers, the rebuilding of the site has been racked by conflicting ideas and architectural preferences. A myriad of civic groups, political agendas and clashing artistic concepts have marked the debate. Many public hearings have been held on the issue. Some participants have argued for restoring the site as the city’s commercial hub, resisting efforts to turn it into a mourning center. Others, especially victims’ families, have pressed for a substantial memorial to take precedence over commercial considerations.

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