An Unexpected Unity, continued

LMDC’s governing board then decided to hold an international design competition for the Ground Zero site, and turned to NYNV for guidance in setting up qualification documents for their search. The response was startling: 406 design firms or teams asked to be considered. NYNV also set up the requirements for the screening panel that winnowed the applicant list down to six in September 2002. The LMDC added one firm, upping the finalist field to seven firms or teams. The architects and planners had a mere eight weeks and $40,000 to create their site designs for this complex assignment. The resulting models were displayed in New York’s Winter Garden, directly across the street from where the twin towers once stood. The juxtaposition of total destruction on one side of the street, and the ideas for rebirth on the other, drew thousands of New Yorkers and other visitors.

In early February the list was reduced to two: Studio Daniel Libeskind; and THINK, four prominent architects led by Rafael Viněly. Both had two weeks in which to revise their plans before a final decision. On February 27, Libeskind was announced as the winner. According to the LMDC Web site, “The Memory Foundations design reconciles the conflicting impulses to preserve the site of the World Trade Center and to rebuild a new skyline. The Libeskind design is imaginative and inspiring, honoring those who were lost while affirming the victory of life, and signaling the rebirth of Lower Manhattan and its iconic skyline.”

As soon as Libeskind’s proposal made the short list last fall, he called his colleague Gary Hack, Paley Professor and dean of the Graduate School of Fine Arts, and asked for his help. Hack, who has been involved in vast, long-term urban projects such as the Prudential Center in Boston, says that the Ground Zero conceptual work required an army of designers. (Other team members included Robert Hargreaves, a landscape architect from Harvard, and Jeffrey Zupan of the Regional Plan Association.) In particular, Hack’s expertise helped with the issues of “where the buildings would sit, where the transportation would fit, where the street should be.” Libeskind does not stint on superlatives in describing his contribution: “Gary is a fantastic human being, and an absolutely fantastic urban-design expert. He knows about the complexities of cities.”

It was Hack who invited Libeskind in 1998 to take on the Cret Professorship, to which he gives “part of his time,” says Hack. He calls Libeskind a “philosopher architect,” and the most interesting person in the architectural world, one preoccupied with how one captures peoples’ “meaningful ties to a building.” Many contemporary architects are either minimalists or are involved in highly technical issues, but Libeskind sees narrative in a building, Hack says.

The Jewish Museum, for example, has cuts and slashes in its surface that point toward where Jews such as Arnold Schoenberg and Albert Einstein lived in Berlin. Another Libeskind memorial design is the Imperial War Museum North, in Manchester, England, which opened last summer. There, the narrative includes three rounded, jagged-edged sections that look like fragments of a broken globe—the world torn apart, in one sense, but they also represent Britain’s three armed services. At the lower Manhattan site, Hack continues, Libeskind plans commemorative markers for each rescue company, with lines in the gardens and street from the memorial site back to where the rescuers came from—the firehouses, police stations, and office buildings.

previous page | continued

A 1,776 ft tall spire is designed to
create a new icon for the New York
skyline, while structures of 50-70
stories provide office space.

 

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