World's Tallest Spire Chosen for WTC Site
February 27, 2003
 By SARA KUGLER, Associated Press Writer



NEW YORK - The city intends to fill its vacant skyline with an airy spire that stands taller than any other building in the world and defiantly recalls the year of America's independence with its height of 1,776 feet.

 The spire, accompanied by five stark geometrical towers and several smaller cultural buildings, has been picked as the model for redeveloping the site where the World Trade Center once stood, a person close to the process told the AP on condition of anonymity. State and city officials were to announce the decision Thursday.

Architect Daniel Libeskind's design calls for preserving part of the sunken pit that was the foundation of the original 1,350-foot twin towers, where he imagines space for a museum and a memorial to the nearly 2,800 victims who died there on Sept. 11, 2001.

Lee Ielpi, whose son was among the 343 firefighters killed, praised the choice of the Libeskind design, because the sunken space preserves what the families consider hallowed ground.

"That area held the largest concentration of the 20,000 body parts that were found," Ielpi said. "That land was consecrated by the blood of the people who were lost that day."

Ielpi is among the victims' relatives who have expressed concern about plans to include parking areas in the pit. The areas would be for memorial visitors, not general public parking, but Gov. George Pataki told planners to "find an accommodation" that the families would approve, the source told the AP.

The Libeskind design was chosen over the THINK team's twin 1,665-foot latticework towers, the source told the AP.

The choice was made by a committee with representatives of the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the offices of Pataki and Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The governor and mayor favored the Libeskind plan, an important factor in the decision, the source said.

LMDC Chairman John Whitehead telephoned Libeskind with the news, the source said, telling the architect that his "vision has brought hope and inspiration to a city still recovering from a terrible tragedy."

Libeskind told the AP he had no comment on the announcement. But he told the LMDC chairman that being selected is "a life-changing experience," according to the source.

Libeskind, whose firm is based in Berlin, has estimated the cost of building his design at $330 million. Officials have said insurance payments on the twin towers and public money are expected to finance the redevelopment, but the specific funding plan is one of many questions that remain.

It is also unclear when the buildings will be constructed or how closely they will resemble the structures designed by Libeskind. Planners are expected to focus now on the memorial space, to prepare for a separate competition that begins this spring.

Nine proposals for redeveloping the trade center site were unveiled Dec. 18. The design competition was launched after an initial set of plans, released in July, was criticized as being dominated by office space and bland structures.

Two finalists were selected this month, each featuring buildings that would dwarf Malaysia's 1,483-foot Petronas Twin Towers, the tallest in the world. A small number of telecommunications towers would still stand taller than the Libeskind spire.

The LMDC was created by Pataki and former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani  in November 2001, when the trade center ruins were still burning, to oversee the rebuilding of the Port Authority-owned site.

The selection process has been a delicate balance among politicians, downtown Manhattan commercial interests, transportation officials, area residents and the families of the victims.

Libeskind, 57, has said he included the sunken space because he was inspired by the surrounding slurry walls that hold back the Hudson River what he says are the most dramatic elements to survive the terrorist attack. He wanted to provide a quiet, meditative space for visitors.

The Polish-born Libeskind was schooled in New York. His firm is well known for the design of the Jewish Museum Berlin, an extension to the Denver Art Museum and the Jewish Museum in San Francisco.

Developer Larry Silverstein, who has said he was not satisfied with either of the finalists, also met with Pataki, Bloomberg and both teams of architects during the past month to voice his concerns.

Howard Rubenstein, a spokesman for Silverstein, said Wednesday "he has great respect for the architect" and looks forward to working with him to "get this project moving."

 


Back to the Stories & Articles Page