Libeskind in running to rebuild WTC

The Libeskind proposal

The Libeskind proposal as viewed from New York Harbor and the Statue of Liberty

Image © Studio Daniel Libeskind

A team headed by a prominent member of Penn’s architecture faculty has been chosen as one of two finalists for the reconstruction of the World Trade Center in New York.

Studio Daniel Libeskind, headed by the Paul Philippe Cret Professor of Architecture, submitted a proposal that includes a 1,575-foot tower, which would be the world’s tallest structure if built, two public parks and a museum in addition to office and retail space.

Gary Hack, dean of the Graduate School of Fine Arts, served as the urban planner on the Libeskind team.

Libeskind, who immigrated to New York from Poland as a teenager, said he was motivated to enter the design competition by his sense of loyalty to the city.

“As an American and a New Yorker, someone who studied at Bronx High School of Science and studied architecture at Cooper Union, I wanted to do my utmost to make New York whole again,” Libeskind said in a telephone interview from his home in Berlin.

The challenge, Libeskind said, was to reconcile two seemingly irreconcilable values: the desire to leave the WTC site open out of respect for the memory of those who died on Sept. 11 and the desire to replace the fallen towers with a similarly iconic structure that would define the skyline.

“I arrived by ship to New York as a teenager, an immigrant, and like millions of others before me, my first sight was of the Statue of Liberty and the amazing skyline of Manhattan,” Libeskind wrote in the introduction to his proposal. “I have never forgotten this sight or what it stands for. This is what this project is all about.”

Hack said that the project was a true collaboration.

“The project was conceived by a group of us—Libeskind, who is the team leader and interested in the architectural issues and symbolic character, George Hargreaves, a landscape architect interested in the public spaces, and myself, interested in how the complex relates to its context and how it functions as a node for transportation, commerce and visitors.

“Projects like this are designed in working sessions with all the key people around the table.”

The general public was among those key people. The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC), which is in charge of the rebuilding project, actively solicited public comment on the nine competing proposals in the course of winnowing them down to the two finalists.

And the comments keep coming. Since the announcement of the finalists, Libeskind said, “We have received more than 1000 e-mails, to which I reply to every one. Some are enthusiastic, some have their own ideas, some are critical. But I’ve been very lucky with the responses.

“Of course, this is a project that affects every New Yorker, but it’s not just New York. It’s a project that affects everyone across the country. It’s something that affects everyone who understands what democracy is.”

The Libeskind team is currently refining the proposal to address issues raised by the sponsors and stakeholders. The LMDC anticipates announcing a final plan by the end of the month.

Originally published on February 27, 2003