Friday, September 2, 2011

World Trade Center Rises From Ground Zero

Ten years after the 9/11 attacks destroyed the World Trade Center, an 80-story glass and steel tower is rising from the ashes of ground zero.

The site called a "hole in the ground" for years has cranes in the air, trains running underground and hundreds of trees planted around giant, man-made waterfalls to remember the dead of Sept. 11. The surrounding neighborhood is bursting with young families, new schools, a Whole Foods and a Barnes & Noble.

"People can begin to see that this is no longer a hole in the middle of New York, but a real place is emerging," said architect Daniel Libeskind, whose master plan serves as a blueprint for the site.

A memorial featuring waterfalls cascading into the footprints of the twin towers will open to the public on Sept. 12, a day after families see their loved ones' names around the pools for the first time. The skyscraper formerly known as the Freedom Tower is growing by a story a week and now stands 1,000 feet above the skyline as the tallest building in lower Manhattan. A transit station and a second office tower also are taking shape.

As the trade center lay in smoking ruins in 2001, New Yorkers debated the future of the 16-acre super block that the twin towers had dominated. Some wanted to rebuild the two 110-story skyscrapers exactly as they had been. Others said that out of respect for the nearly 3,000 dead, the entire tract should be a memorial or a park.

Larry Silverstein, the developer who signed a lease on the twin towers on July 24, 2001, pushed to rebuild the 10 million square feet of office space he had lost. Civic groups pushed for a more neighborhood-friendly design than two monoliths on a concrete plaza.

Libeskind, who won a competition to become the site's master planner, focused on the Freedom Tower, with an asymmetrical spire soared to the symbolic height of 1,776 feet and echoed the Statue of Liberty across the harbor. He set aside half the site for a memorial that left empty the spots where the destroyed towers stood, and set space aside for a performing arts center to merge culture and commerce.

Tensions were inevitable between Libeskind's artistic vision and Silverstein's desire for buildings that would draw tenants. Now, Libeskind said, "the tensions are gone." 1 World Trade hardly resembles Libeskind's early drawings, but he called it "an impressive building." Designed by David Childs, its tapering form is symmetrical but retains the spire and the 1,776 feet. To guard against truck bombs, the bottom 20 floors will be windowless, re-enforced concrete covered by glass. The base will house infrastructure like generators and air-conditioning systems.

Other trade center projects include Michael Arad's memorial, the museum scheduled to open next year and Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava's transportation hub, designed to look like a bird in flight. The hub will eventually include restaurants and stores, restoring one of the largest shopping centers that used to sit at the base of the trade center.

The transit hub, which will serve as a gateway to New York for tens of thousands of daily New Jersey commuters and connect to city subway lines, has been plagued by delays and budget overruns. Its 2005 budget of $2.2 billion has ballooned to $3.4 billion and could still grow. Ward said the station will be completed by the end of 2014.

When it opens in less than two weeks, the memorial will bring thousands of people and life into a closed-off super block that transformed from construction pit to construction site in a decade. Hundreds of trees will surround the enormous, man-made waterfalls filling the one-acre squares where the twin towers stood. The names of the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks and the 1993 World Trade Center bombing that killed six are inscribed in bronze panels.

After memorial judges said Arad's original design was too bare, landscape architect Peter Walker was brought in to add greenery. Hundreds of swamp white oak trees have been trucked in to provide a canopy over the memorial plaza.
The museum, opening next year, will feature trade center artifacts like a fire truck used to rescue people from the north tower.

Arad said the construction that surrounds the pools won't distract memorial visitors. The point of the rebuilt site, he says, was to combine quiet, contemplative spots with the city's bustle. "The memorial was always designed to compete with all the stimuli that surround the site," he said. "We're in lower Manhattan surrounded by towers, by the sort of bustling humanity. The memorial was always designed to really create a quiet and contemplative space in the middle of all this. It's really a clearing in the middle of the forest."

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