The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation yesterday named Studio Daniel Libeskind and THINK Designs as semi-finalists in its quest for a new World Trade Center. With its pointed, sharp angles, Libeskind’s project is a high-rise knife attack. Though more sublime, THINK’s skeletal latticework filled with cultural structures seems both otherworldly and insufficiently commercial for Manhattan’s financial district.
In any case, both plans fail to do what Northwestern University’s Justin Berzon has done. He has created something seemingly impossible: A concrete plan that restores the Twin Towers in a way that should satisfy the various constituencies currently feuding over the future of Ground Zero.
For the last few weeks, Berzon practically has suspended his studies at the Medill School of Journalism. He mainly has worked with architectural maps, computer-graphics programs, and satellite photographs of the WTC site. He has produced a solution to the rebuilding challenge that is so elegant and simple as to make one whack his own forehead and wonder, “Why didn’t I think of that?”
Berzon’s plan, which he calls “Standing Tall,” moves the Towers from the west and southwest portions of the WTC’s 16-acres to its northeast corner. That simple shift makes way for just about everything that various groups have expected to spring from that gaping hole: untouched footprints of the original Towers, restoration of Greenwich Street, ample space for a memorial and September 11 museum, a transportation super hub below ground and room, Berzon says, for some 90 percent of the office space demolished in al Qaeda’s barbaric attack.
Interestingly enough, “Standing Tall” asks something of almost everyone involved in the WTC rehabilitation debate. In this respect, it is a perfect compromise that everyone should embrace with enthusiasm.
Purist rebuilders will have to relinquish the position that the World Trade Center be restored exactly as it was, as if the 9/11 hijackers had been arrested the night before they boarded their murderous flights. In exchange for seeing the old footprints vacant, we will revel as the Twin Towers soar to their former glory.
Families of those killed on 9/11 will have to accept the return of the Towers. For some, this will be a jarring reminder of the worst day of their lives. Conversely, they will be relieved to see the original footprints preserved as part of a memorial to their loved ones.
Grid restorers will see Greenwich Street dog-leg slightly to the west when passing the new Tower One. In turn, they will applaud the reopening of this north-south artery.
The Port Authority will get a transit hub, although most likely a subterranean one rather than an above-ground Grand Downtown Terminal.
Developer Larry Silverstein leased the World Trade Center when former Mayor Rudy Giuliani privatized it in summer 2001. He will witness the resurrection of the Towers he bought, although above the 65- to 70-story limit beyond which he has safety worries. On the other hand, he will see nearly all of his private commercial floor space rehabilitated.
Berzon was born in Manhattan and lived last year just two blocks from Ground Zero. He speaks with unflagging passion about the Twin Towers.
“Even though we have photos and footage of the Twin Towers, how will future generations understand the true scale of what was lost on September 11?” he asks. “The only true salve that might heal this hurting city requires 200,000 tons of steel and concrete. We must rebuild the Twins.”
Berzon has a tough question for those he acknowledges do not share his love for the World Trade Center. “Whether or not you agree with replacing them in actuality, ask yourself this: ‘Would you, right now, give anything to have them back if someone said they could be back tomorrow?’ There’s your answer.”
Americans who want to see the Twin Towers return to Manhattan’s skyline should rally around Justin Berzon’s “Standing Tall” plan. His serious, practical proposal brings back the Towers in a way that should satisfy the myriad voices concerned with the future of Ground Zero.
If yours is among them, please speak out. Tell the following leaders that you want the Twin Towers back and that Justin Berzon’s “Standing Tall” proposal is the best way to make that happen. Come to think of it, why not alert them to this article?
Silverstein Properties, Inc.
530 Fifth Avenue
New York, New York 10036
Louis Tomson, President
John Whitehead, Chairman
Lower Manhattan Development Corporation
One Liberty Plaza
New York, NY 10006
Port Authority of New York and New Jersey
225 Park Avenue South
New York, NY 10003
— Mr. Murdock is a columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service.