I’m (Guardedly) Optimistic About Libeskind & the WTC—Here’s Why

Thankfully, the governor and the mayor picked an architect, not a plan, and Daniel Libeskind is uniquely qualified to see the World Trade Center through.

Now that the euphoria surrounding the Daniel Libeskind announcement has faded, we’ve all had time to look at the fine print. This is the urban planning equivalent of a hangover.

It’s clear that the program is still being driven by the leases signed by Larry Silverstein and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey prior to September 11th. Libeskind’s revised scheme calls for 10 million square feet of office space. In other words: exactly what the dreary Beyer Blinder Belle plans called for, which were roundly condemned for being “too commercial.”

Key aspects of the design have been altered: the depth of the exposed slurry wall, for instance, is 30 instead of 70 feet. Any or all of the other features are subject to possible modification beyond recognition. Larry Silverstein’s reaction to the plan has been lukewarm at best.

Meanwhile, the Port Authority has been making unilateral transportation decisions that have not been subject to public debate and appear a lot more permanent than they’re letting on. But the answers to these two questions remain fuzzy: Who’s in charge day to day? Will the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. will even be in business a year from now?

Why in spite of all this do I remain optimistic? Because in the end the governor of New York State and the mayor of New York City picked an architect, not a plan. Now I may have a blind confidence in this architect that borders on the naïve, but I feel Libeskind is uniquely qualified in talent, temperament, and persistence to stay the course.

Think of it this way. If you told us a year ago that the LMDC would have a tentative site plan by March 2003, designed by Daniel Libeskind, I would have said then what I’m saying now: I’ll take it. We have a long way to go, but I’ll take it.

Categories: Cities