After Two Years of Design Work, a Competition, and Public Debate, Why Is the Freedom Tower Design Now Being Radically Changed?

The conceptual design for the Freedom Tower at the World Trade Center site is being radically changed by the architecture firm, SOM, whose competition entry to redesign the 16 acres in downtown Manhattan received the fewest votes—5% of public approval, observes the leadership of Rebuild Downtown Our Town (R.Dot). This civic group, made up of Lower Manhattan residents and businesses, wonders why after two years of design work, public debate, and an international design competition won by Daniel Libeskind is about to be displaced by the new SOM scheme.

The SOM design revealed in the New York Times showed no relationship to the site_s diagonal lines, plazas, and walkways as the Libeskind plan proposed and which has been accepted by both the governor and the LMDC. The soaring, reaching, element of the Libeskind proposal apparently has been eliminated; the new forms proposed have no relationship to future buildings planned for the site and so carefully thought out in the Libeskind scheme.

“In the Freedom Tower’s place, there now seem to be two truncated towers twisting against one another and vaguely reminiscent Lord Norman Foster’s gigantic ‘kissing towers,’ which came closest in their form to the World Trade Center towers. This bad imitation of the Foster design and the original Yamasaki design is apparently meant to replace the concept of 1776, a symbol for America rising again,” said Susan Szenasy, editor in chief of Metropolis Magazine and co-chair of R.Dot. “The noble and timely idea of tall buildings that make their own, clean energy with the aid of windmills is cheapened by the pedestrian design. Why can’t we figure out how to work with the Libeskind scheme and make it sustainable?”

“The Governor, the LMDC, and the Port Authority must move quickly to get ground zero built; this is essential to the revitalization of stricken Lower Manhattan and the city beyond the beleaguered neighborhood. Starting over with a totally new design will cause unwarranted delays, rattle civic groups, and delay environmental analysis. Further delays can not be tolerated as they are harmful to business and the quality of life of the residents,” said Beverly Willis, President of Architecture Research Institute and co-chair of R.Dot.

“R.Dot is concerned that the pace of development is far too slow. The Governor has refused to let the site development react to market-driven conditions. Holding site development up for the return of the office market will delay the rebuilding of ground zero for years,” continued Willis. Now a totally new design is proposed that will cause further delays. What purpose does this latest proposal serve?

R.Dot joined the Civic Alliance yesterday [Dec. 9, 2003] in voting to reaffirm the organization’s support for the Libeskind plan.

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