May 31, 201208:00 AMPoint of View
Inside the Design Mind
1 World Trade Center rendering © SOM/dbox studioCaruso: Mr. Childs, you’ve done many skyscrapers before. What was so different about 1 World Trade Center? Childs: Well, every building has its own challenges. This one had many technical challenges. It’s in a river, a big river. You have to go down 80 feet to bedrock to anchor it down. And, being a tall building, it’s another animal, so the slenderness ratio is very complicated. But there are a lot of [other] aspects that had to be accomplished. First of course was the symbolic: rebuilding the skyline. But we also took just as seriously advancing the art of architecture in terms of its safety. The skyscraper is really an American invention, but we lost the forefront. This was a wakeup call and enabled us to upgrade all sorts of codes in New York that have become models for other cities.
World Trade Center Plaza Path station, photo by John Bartelstone PhotographyCaruso: Mr. Calatrava, your practice has explored the incredible balance between beauty and performance in architecture. How did you extend the concept of balance to accommodate the emotions and physical requirements of the PATH station at Ground Zero? Calatrava: I’ve been involved in several railway stations, and I recognize they are basically functional. They have to work. They have to be easy to use, function twenty-four hours a day and are probably the most public buildings because everybody can enter and go out, no restriction, no limitation. But the stations also have something mystical. They are the gates; people come to cities and go out of cities through them. In the history of New York, enormous, interesting, and beautiful buildings have served for 100 years [now] ten times more people with the same infrastructure. We try to capture all of that and I think what uplifted our effort is the Port Authority, itself. They wanted to catch the spirit of the great buildings of New York. Without [their collaboration] the project would have been impossible. Caruso: Mr. Libeskind, you have worked very successfully as an architect of healing, most notably for the Jüdisches Museum, Berlin. What is it about these projects that draw you to them? Libeskind: I don’t know if I’m drawn to them, but these projects are not abstract to me; they are part of my own experience. Whether it is as somebody born to Holocaust survivors or someone who studied architecture in Europe when the Twin Towers were built, it’s not something that is remote. The response to it was an instant response. It came from the heart. Of course you have to support that response with a lot of technical and professional knowledge, but ultimately it’s about the human response and the values that I believe make New York a great city; a city of opportunity, freedom, liberty, talent, and a city where bigotry is not tolerated. As an immigrant, I feel that this is really the shaping of the site. That’s where I thought we have to bring the character of publicness [sic] to bear. How do you measure success for this collective project? Calatrava: I cannot judge globally how much time we will need to reconstruct, but it is very important that the whole reconstruction happens. This is a key goal. We have to preserve this goal and not lose stamina or momentum. The success of this project will be measured in that we really achieved a goal that people put [to us] ten years ago. That is number one. Childs: Ten years ago, when everybody went down to the site they were looking down with frowns on their face. Now they look up and smile. People love to see things happening again and being replaced. I think [1 World Trade Center] has clearly made advances, from technical detailing of the window wall to green engineering, and so forth. And I think that people respond so positively to seeing that marker. [After September 11], you saw the tip of Manhattan and had no idea where the World Trade Center was. But now, there’s that vertical presence. There’s a nice dialogue now between downtown and midtown that was lost. We do have tall buildings downtown, but the connection is back again, sort of talking to each other like when the towers were there. Libeskind: Success is measured in how it brings together two almost irreconcilable aspects: the loss of those who perished on that tragic day and a force to rebuild the city in an affirmation of life. And I think those two things go together; they are not really opposites. One supports the other and that’s the beauty of the development of Ground Zero. It was not easy to achieve, but I wanted to touch the fullness of the experience of what happened there. And at the same time I wanted to create streets that are interesting and balance the need for retail and open to the memorial in a civic way. It is a complex equation of emotion and realism, and I think both are needed. That’s what New York has always been. Success is also measured in response to the needs of people. It’s not how tall the buildings are, it’s about the healing atmosphere that a space communicates. That is ineffable; it is not measurable on a scale of objective values. It is something deeply cultural and spiritual, and that’s what I would define as the civic art of architecture, the civic art of cities. It balances memory and tragedy, integrates it into life and moves life forward in a way that is full of joy and celebration. This is really the notion of living in an open and democratic city.
National 9/11 Memorial Aerial © Joe WoolheadCaruso: What do you think now when you step on the site? Libeskind: I’m inspired that all the things that were drawn are really underway and they look fantastic. And I can see people have smiles on their face and are suddenly coming back to the memorial. I see that energy coming back to this place as really interesting, civic, important and beautiful; something that I think will contribute to the future of a great city. Andrew Caruso , AIA, LEED AP BD+C, CDT, publishes and speaks internationally on issues of talent within the creative industries. His latest column, “Inside the Design Mind,” explores the motivations of today’s design icons and influencers, surfacing key elements of their identity and examining their agency within the community of practice. Andrew can be reached at: email@example.com. About Inside the Design Mind The National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. tells the stories of architecture, engineering, and design. The Museum’s Spotlight on Design lectures feature architects and designers of distinction from around the world. Inside the Design Mind, a series from the National Building Museum, is presented in partnership with Metropolis Magazine. See this post at the National Building Museum site. This post is a part of the Inside the Design Mind series.