WTC Redesign Wrapup, 2002-2005


I have so little to say about the WTC Master Plan and Building Designs that this will probably be my only post about it.

2002-2005: Daniel Liebeskind does some stuff, which turns out to be completely bogus, because he didn't use any verified facts, including sun angles or security information. In the meantime, he designs some truly hideous buildings to prove he can do it too. David Childs takes over the design of the Freedom Tower so that it can actually get done and be beautiful, and there's some noise about whether it's Liebeskind's design or his. The Master Plan gets really average about the time they unveil the Memorial design, meaning we're approaching urbanism that is less interesting or original than the first WTC. Then security stuff shows up, bizarrely after the project should be in ground, and the tower is going to be redesigned.

Philip Noble, Nicholai Oursoff, and our friends at Curbed seem to be documenting it all rather well. I am particularly drawn to Oursoff's look toward the possibilities in the current breakdown.

But really, who cares about the latest redesign hub-bub? The tower is very average anyway, attempting to be tall and amazing, even though in photos like the one above, you can clearly see that it's a cop-out. It's a phantom building. A symbol of our courage: an outline, a drawing in the air, but nothing we're actually willing to rent space in.

Does anyone remember the New York agency-sponsored urban planning exercises of the last 50 years? Let's take, for instance, the United Nations competition. A star architect's design won it. There was a period of uncertainty, in which time the star architect was completely out of the picture, replaced by a local who did good but not-groundbreaking (but totally buildable, yo) work. And we ended up with the UN, an outline of a Le Corbusier project, but with none of Corbusier inside it. We're lucky to have the UN complex. I'm not saying Liebeskind is anywhere near as talented as Corbusier: an outline of a Liebeskind project will just look dumb.

What I'm saying is that from day one, I never expected anything from the master plan, the one that won or any of the others. Even when I organized a design charette for the WTC site and wrote RFQs for the Master Plan, I knew that this was the game I was playing. I knew that three years later, I'd be looking at a local architect who was really running the show, and waiting for the whole thing to get stirred up with local politics until at some point someone built something, whatever that may be.


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