Bold ideas sought for new World Trade Center design

August 11, 2010

Life is beginning anew at Ground Zero, but its rebirth is by no means a smooth or easy process. The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC) is heading back to the drawing tables and enlisting more designers in its effort to rebuild and rejuvenate the site.

In the face of heavy criticism heaped upon its six initial proposals for the redevelopment of the site, the LMDC will announce at the end of the month the names of five additional firms that it hopes will inject "an innovative and broader range of ideas and designs" into the process.

"In response to public reaction, we decided that we wanted to work with some more exciting designers to see if we could come up with other ideas and schemes," says Alexander Garvin, vice president of planning, design and development for LMDC, the city-state organization formed to plan the site redevelopment.

LMDC's decision to expand the design process is endorsed by New York New Visions (NYNV), a coalition of 21 architecture, engineering and planning organizations to which LMDC has reached out for advice in the selection process. "It's a step in the right direction," says architect Mark Ginsberg, NYNV's co-chair. However, Ginsberg is cautious in his endorsement, saying the coalition is "still concerned about how all the pieces of the puzzle come together."

The design process has broadened into an international search for firms to create a second set of proposals following negative reviews by New Yorkers of the initial proposals put forth in July by the New York design team of Beyer Blinder Belle (BBB) and Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB).

Criticism, however, was aimed as much at the program the architects were required to follow as it was at the designs. Objections to the proposals focused on the use of the footprint of the Twin Towers for commercial space rather than as a memorial, and at the mandate given to designers to replace the entire 11 million sq. ft. of offices, 600,000 sq. ft. of retail and 600,000 sq. ft. of hotel space that was lost.

"Many of the ideas that were in two of the original design proposals — the Memorial Promenade and the Memorial Park schemes — were what the public told us they wanted going forward," says Garvin. "They wanted a skyline element, a street grid, different-sized open spaces and a grand promenade on West Street."

BBB and PB will continue to work as consultants to LMDC and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the site.

"There is an awareness by LMDC and the Port Authority of the need to look at different programs," says an optimistic John Belle, a principal with BBB. "There is a consensus among the two organizations to expand the uses that might be developed on the site: cultural activities, public uses and certainly residential uses."

Firms have until Sept. 16 to submit qualifications. On Sept. 30, a committee will select the five firms to design concepts for the site. A final plan is expected to be selected by year's end.