Daniel Libeskind, A New World Trade Center
In the months following the 9/11 attacks, an array of competitions, conferences, and initiatives was launched to consider the appropriateness and terms of rebuilding Ground Zero.When, in mid-2002, the Lower Manhattan Development Company (LMDC) released an abysmal set of six initial plans for a new World Trade Center, a reactionary wave of architects entered the fray, each with their own vision to rehabilitate and transform Ground Zero into a thriving urban center once more. Their plans, however loose or conceptual they may have been, promised to offer the city something more than what it would receive a decade later--Daniel Libeskind's diluted masterplan for a series of equally bland towers (Libeskind's first ideas for a tower at Ground Zero above).
Foreign Office of Architects (FOA), A New World Trade Center
At the end of 2001, the Max Protetch Gallery (now the Meulensteen Gallery) organized an exhibition of speculative proposals from sixty architects and artists which gave form, in all of its considerations, to a new Lower Manhattan. Many of the participants felt comfortable only submitting conceptual plans and ideas, while others, like recently-disbanded FOA, presented coherent, tectonic (i.e. "buildable") proposals. Through their shared oddity and theoretical daring, the projects collectively provoke reconsiderations of the nature of public space and urban experience.
NOX, Oblique WTC
Carlos Brillembourg Architects
Raimund Abraham, A New World Trade Center
The breadth and variety of the submissions are remarkable, especially considering the short span of time allotted for work. Some, like the NOX and FOA towers, seem prescient, anticipating several of the decade's most exciting projects. Others appear, by turns, crude, like Asymptote's "Twin Twins" or Steven Holl conceptually bold but visually under-cooked "Floating Memorial/Folded Street", or whistful, such as Michael Graves' anachronistic composition of Old Lower Manhattan-in-miniature mapped over Ground Zero. It's particularly interesting to see the architects precariously navigate the new waters of computer-aided design, namely through considerably awkward and oddly colored, 3d sketches and minor scripting, as in Zaha Hadid's project.
Michael Graves & Associates
Steven Holl, WTC Concept, "Floating Memorial/Folded Street"
Hariri & Hariri
Guy Nordensen, Towers
For the first anniversary of 9/11, The New York Times published an architectural study of the future of Lower Manhattan, entitled "The Masters' Plan", in response to growing concerns over the LMDC's planning procedures guiding Ground Zero's redevelopment. Curated by the Times' then chief architectural critic, the late Herbert Muschamp, the study featured conceptual building designs from the world's leading architects, who were each assigned a site and building program. The results are just as varied, if somewhat more intellectually bounded by realities of construction, as those of the Max Protetch exhibition. Both Guy Nordensen's rotating towers and Henry Cobb's broadcast tower/memorial latticework are visually arresting, though ultimately underwhelming. Peter Eisenman's contribution is a set of three writhing office towers which appear to be undergoing some kind of phase change. The office towers proposed by Koolhaas' OMA team manages to be most radical and ridiculous of the submissions, yet it is indicative of the direction of the firm's research at the time.
Henry Cobb, Broadcast Tower
Peter Eisenman, Office Towers
OMA (Rem Koolhaas, Joshua Prince-Ramus, Dan Wood), Office Towers
Zaha Hadid, Skyscraper
The week after the publishing of the Times' article, New York magazine released the result of its own sponsored study, which prompted seven architects to "prescribe [Ground Zero with] curative doses of the beautiful, the poetic, the sublime." The schemes lay out new urban configurations of building and landscapes which extend the limits of Ground Zero out into Lower Manhattan. Both the plans submitted by Morphosis and William Pederson articulate amphibious megastructural assemblages rising from the water and tunneling through Lower Manhattan until ascending at Ground Zero. Eisenman's somewhat tasteless design immortalizes the point of the collapse of the Twin Towers, with a trio of blank Modernist towers whose contents flows outward at their base to form public and commercial zones. Zaha Hadid's sinuous towers are a reinterpretation of the originals, made thinner and animate; the towers touch at various point, creating new urban spaces in the air. Yet none of these possess the energy pulsing through Lebbeus Wood's conceptual Babel, which will ascends higher and higher above the site of tragedy, under perpetual construction.
William Pederson of Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates
Wolf Prix of Coop Himmelb(l)au
Michael Meredith of MOS, submitted under the pseudonym "Meredith Michaels"