rebuilding and opacity
The architect who won the highly-publicized contest to design a rebuilt World Trade Center and the architect hired by the site’s developer have apparently agreed on a plan for the site’s 1,776 foot tower.
The “Freedom Tower” plan by Daniel Libeskind was chosen by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation as “the design concept” for the site, while David M. Childs heads the team retained by developer Larry Silverstein, who took over the commercial space on the WTC property the summer before the 9/11 attacks.
David Dunlap’s NYT article reconstructs the weeks of logistical and conceptual wrangling that made the resulting design possible. The account also helped me better understand the complex cooperative relationship between Governor Pataki, the LMDC, and Silverstein.
When we finished the Listening to the City project, a report went to LMDC, summing up the rebuilding priorities of the 4,500 citizens who met at the Javits Center and the 800 area residents we hosted in our online dialogues.
The citizen summit was a watershed moment in the public discussion about rebuilding, and it definitely changed the terms of the rebuilding discussion, up to the highest levels. Pete Hamill wrote an inspiring article about “people power” and The Times even borrowed the event name for the title of its own editorial.
It was also an historic collaboration between key decision-makers like the governor and LMDC and citizens and advocacy groups. But with the commerical space in private hands, it was by no means certain that the public’s wishes, or the governor’s, or the Port Authority’s, would be reflected in the final plans.
Only Mr. Silverstein could count on the money needed to finance a $1.5 billion project, through expected insurance payments. … In May, Mr. Silverstein said he would hire another architect — it turned out to be the Skidmore firm, represented by Mr. Childs and T. J. Gottesdiener — though he added that Mr. Libeskind “will be part of the team of architects” and that the tower “will reflect the spirit of Dan’s site plan.” …
Though Mr. Childs insisted that he was trying to find the best way to express Mr. Libeskind’s master plan, he began with a different premise. … For all the public knew, Mr. Libeskind’s Freedom Tower was still the one that it was going to get. The image of the tower was the one shown by the development corporation and the Port Authority on Sept. 17, when the “refined master plan” was presented. It is still shown on the Silverstein Properties Web site. [from the NYT article]
Though Listening to the City was a chance for public input at a scale rarely attained, the events of the ensuing 15 months have shown that big decisions still get made in high places, among the people sitting up there.
The article says that Libeskind regarded himself as “the steward of a popularly acclaimed plan,” which, if true, would mean that the public had at least a nominal representative influencing the ultimate decision. But it’s still a disappointment that more of the details and terms of the process weren’t available for public engagement as decisions were being made.