Friday, December 20, 2002

Rebuilding the WTC Site
Go here to see the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. website for detailed reviews of the seven site rebuild designs. Below I have listed my thoughts on each.

Firm A: I think the plaza layout and the extensive use of greenery (including the sky gardens and viewing platform on the new WTC building itself) is quite attractive. Unfortunately, I can't say I like the look of the new WTC building itself. Too bulky, weird, and angular.

Firm B: I appreciate the thinking behind the amphitheater memorial, but who uses amphitheaters anymore? A deep, stone, staircased pit may not be attractive and I just don't see this being a magnet for people (see Boston City Hall as an example of how a brick courtyard amphitheater drives people away). Also, the design for the new Twin Towers is not appealing as it looks like two electric toothbrushes reaching into the sky. This concept plan did not appeal to me at all. Too busy, too unfocused.

Firm C: What first caught my attention was the attractive concept for the train station and the illumination ideas for day and night. However, this firm's idea concept falls apart soon thereafter as they envision the WTC site to be in perpetual construction over the years, culminating in a cramped jungle of wobbly looking buildings. How's this for an appealing skyline?

Firm D: My first impression was of those rock crystal gardens that kids grow from a kit. The designer certainly has an appreciation for crystalline structure, especially with the layout of a 9/11 memorial. I found this nightscape rendition to be inspiring and eye catching. I also appreciated the idea to make the centerpiece tower a showcase of gardens, particularly evident from this angle. Overall, not bad in my view. Futuristic, bold, and yet not massive. I liked the extensive use of glass, prismatic angles, and color within the architecture and also the melding of more natural elements like the tower of gardens. Interesting.

Firm E: The Mission Statement certainly was audacious enough, what with all the appeals for architecture to celebrate diversity, democracy, and the like. The design firm decided to offer 3 different concepts based on cost. The first concept was the Sky Garden. This concept view of the site was certainly quite inspiring. What I like is the extensive use of greenery as well as a memorialization of the original Twin Tower footprints incorporated within the multilevel park. Here's that Amphitheater idea again. The second concept revolved around the idea for a massive Great Room plaza which I thought was quite bold, but really all that's being offered here is a large museum/shopping mall. The third concept was for a skeletal framed World Cultural Center which would surround the footprint of the original Twin Towers. The idea is certainly grand, but this discussion of Structural Analysis left me a bit unsettled about the quirky design. Overall, I like the vision and presentation of the Sky Park. Its perhaps the most traditional to the original WTC site, but I like its elevated idea and green and open concept. In terms of architectural merits, the Great Room and World Cultural Center ideas seemed original but did not seem as inspiring as the Sky Park concept.

Firm F: This certainly makes a statement. New York would once again host the tallest building in the world. A view from below. A closer view. This daytime view made the buildings appear quite out of place to the older existing stone architecture that surrounds the site. I appreciated this discussion of safety and evacuation in the event of an emergency. Imagine this view from your office. Overall, I think this idea is very bold and ambitious. I think it aspires to the idea of the original Twin Towers which were meant as clear statements. Not only did we construct the largest building in the world (at that time), but we put up two of them! In this idea, grand architecture returns to NYC. On the otherhand, this idea does the least towards harmonizing the site with the memory of the events of 9/11. The architecture is sweeping and massive, but there's also something about it that is a bit inhuman. Perhaps that is the dilemma. Do you appeal to the original grandeur of the WTC and its architectural hubris? Or do you instead downplay the site a bit; keeping the interaction between man and architecture on a more horizontal level (through memorials, parks, concourses, etc) rather than the more audacious vertical approach. (Which this concept is certainly striving to achieve). Very interesting. I guess I say I like the idea of the buildings themselves, but are they appropriate for the WTC site considering the events of 9/11? Would this sort of architecture make more sense at another location other than the WTC site? This also begs the question, did 9/11 give a black eye to this sort of architectural reach (iie to building bigger, bolder, and stridently)? This view may offer an answer

Firm G: Well, I guess IKEA weighs in with their concept offering. NYC: Home of the world's largest set of waffle fries. Here, the buildings are awaiting for some Alien Mothership to arrive and drop a Connect Four playing piece. Enough shelving space for glass figurines to be placed in the future. I'm sorry I just didn't like this one at all.

Overall, I'd say I liked the Sky Park idea offered by Firm E and the architectural ideas offered by Firm D. I think the site needs to be quite humanly interactive, with parks, art, memorials, etc as well as offer cutting edge architecture that is visionary. But then, I still can't overlook the scope that Firm F is reaching for. Architecture is many things to many people. It is such an interesting artiface because it combines majesty and artistry, power and subtlety, the practical with the conceptual. What would Howard Roark design?


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