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Towering Above
Exhibit showcases World Trade Center proposals.


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Deroy Murdock

What will replace the World Trade Center?

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New Yorkers have asked ourselves that question since shortly after the Twin Towers collapsed into a smoking ruin. Should two skyscrapers again climb 110 stories into the air — or even higher? Should this killing field for 2,838 civilians instead become a solemn, tree-lined park? Perhaps a mixture of offices, residences, and a commemorative structure makes sense.

Even as recovery workers continue to remove rubble from Ground Zero, this question remains wide open to debate. Through tomorrow night, the Max Protetch Gallery in Manhattan’s Chelsea district offers a wealth of contributions to this discussion. “A New World Trade Center: Design Proposals” showcases projects by no fewer than 60 entrants. Through rough pencil sketches, intricate architectural drawings, three-dimensional models, and computer-animated video installations, artists, and designers alike have suggested numerous ways to rehabilitate the 16-acre WTC site.

Several pieces address the memorial aspect of the rebuilding challenge.

Morris Adjmi offers a building composed of three gigantic American flags placed one atop the next, each smaller section stacked above the last. A small antenna caps off the bold, red, white, and blue shrine.

Eytan Kaufman’s “World Bridge” project combines a new transit link with a structure that honors the victims of the 9-11 atrocity. Modeled after Florence’s Ponte Vecchio, this is a large, beautifully lit pedestrian bridge tying Lower Manhattan to Jersey City. A pair of transparent glass tubes, fused in the middle, carries people across the Hudson. Twin beacons illuminate the bridge from the tops of suspension towers from which tension wires hold the tubes above the river. A space measuring 200 feet in diameter inside the bridge contains six to eight stories of offices, hotel rooms, restaurants, and an arts and entertainment center. Nearby, at today’s Ground Zero, a 17-story “World Forum” features a giant, glass globe that serves as a testimonial space containing an educational center.

Others were driven to produce ambitious plans for where architect Minoru Yamasaki’s Twin Towers once stood. Some designers explicitly wish to see signature buildings return to the WTC, in some cases even larger than the fallen high-rises.

Foreign Office Architects suggest eight “Bunch Towers” that resemble four pairs of X chromosomes. These interwoven, wavy tubes are, the designers explain, “organized in a circle [and] bend vertically to buttress each other approximately every third of the total height of the building.” Each tower wiggles back and forth as it connects to its neighbors at lobby level, zigs out, zigs back to meet again in the middle, drifts away once more and finally reconnects at the top.

“We have a great site in a great city and the opportunity to have the world’s tallest building back in New York,” the architects note. “Ground Zero used to host 1.3 million square meters of workspace, and that is a good size to attempt to return to New York its legitimate
possession.”

Nathan McRae’s intriguing effort blends a striking, forward-looking new edifice that honors the Twin Towers for everything they were. His single, gently angled, 110-story building internalizes the precise outlines of the Twin Towers as top-to-bottom openings around which the balance of the new structure stands. As he explains: “This building preserves the voids where the World Trade Center Towers once stood by maintaining them as negative space within the new skin. The memorial is the preservation of the loss.”

“At night, they are lit from within. The voids are accessible to the public at ground level, revealing the footprint of the towers and their empty volumes as space for reflection.”

McRae’s idea is intelligent, respectful, and of sufficient scope to show the world that New Yorkers are not afraid to build and work in a World Trade Center even bigger than the last.

While most of this show’s projects are practical, if sometimes excessive, others are simply fanciful. Kas Oosterhuis’s design for a giant piece of “e-motive architecture” is colorful, imaginative and engaging. It also is about 500 years ahead of its time. Like a high-rise mood ring, he proposes a structure that somehow constantly adapts to its surroundings and the needs of New Yorkers.

“This e-building not only reacts to different circumstances but actively proposes new configurations,” Oosterhuis’s text explains. In Januarys, for instance, it would present itself as a conference space with support facilities. Then, on rainy days in May, the building would gyrate at dramatic angles to provide shelter for passersby. And every September 11, Oosterhuis’s creation would morph into two large, identical towers to remember the late, great World Trade Center.

This proposal cannot be built until someone invents steel Play-Doh.

Another work unlikely to enjoy a groundbreaking ceremony recalls a giant slab of Swiss cheese. Acconci Studio calls it “a building riddled with holes: A building pre-shot, pre-blown out, pre-exploded…from the original site, the building is extruded to a height of 110 stories, the unnecessary office footage, the extra volume, is blown away…” While Vito Acconci has spawned something captivating in a ghastly sort of way, it ultimately looks like commercial real estate designed by anti-globalization protesters.

The proposal that seems likeliest to become reality is called Towers of Light. Conceived soon after the September 11 attack by architects Gustavo Bonevardi and John Bennett and later combined with similar work by Julian LeVerdiere, Paul Marantz, Paul Myoda, and Richard Nash-Gould Weiss/Manfredi, this idea’s elegant simplicity has won the applause of critics, the public and City Hall. As a segment of black-and-white computer animation illustrates on a video monitor, the designers point beacons of white light straight into the heavens to reestablish the footprints of the Twin Towers on a vacant lot near their former home.

The result restores them, even if only at night, “as a symbol of strength, hope and resiliency, a reclamation of New York City’s skyline and identity; a tribute to rescue workers and a mnemonic for all those who lost their lives.” This temporary installation, eventually would yield to something, perhaps even another of this exhibit’s proposals.

Before long, whatever fills that sad space will vindicate the defiant placards that appeared around New York soon after September 11. As they predicted: “We will rebuild!”

“A New World Trade Center” ends Saturday evening, February 16. The Max Protetch Gallery is at 511 West 22nd Street (between 10th and 11th Avenues) in Manhattan. For more information, call: 212-633-6999.



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