Gallery: The Freedom Towers That Could Have Been: 7 Unrealized Designs ...

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill’s original proposal, before withdrawing and then being named consultant, was a dense grid of vertical structures which would encapsulate 16 acres on ground and 16 acres in sky gardens, which would reconnect the city.
+ Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

Studio Libeskind’s original submission, dubbed “the Freedom Tower,” proposed the iconic 1,776 foot spire. Libeskind also included Gardens of the World, as he feels gardens are a constant affirmation of life. The base of the site featured an elevated walkway, promenade, the Park of Heroes and the Wedge of Light, which lets the sun shine through, interrupted, during the time of morning that the towers were falling.

+ Studio Libeskind

London-based architects Foster + Partners’ design sought to evoke memory and rebirth. Two crystalline towers, comprised of stacked triangular designs, met at three points, creating what the architects called a “kiss,” but also emergency escape routes for public areas of the towers. Foster+ Partners’ design also employed a multi-layered skin that provided natural ventilation with a cluster of trees planted in the atrium to cleanse the air and symbolize life.

+ Foster + Partners

Meier and Partners designed two grid-like buildings that resembled tic-tac-toe boards. The towers were interconnected with horizontal rows of floors which created vast “holes” inside of the overall façade. Placed at a 90-degree angle with edges almost touching, the ground space created would be a large public space, similar to Rockefeller Center. Dubbed “Memorial Square,” the project was a collaboration with Richard Meier & Partners Architects, Eisenman Architects, Gwathmey Siegel & Associates, and Steven Holl Architects.

+ Meier and Partners

The THINK design team included a roster of architects and designers, including Inhabitat favorite Shigeru Ban. Their Towers of Culture design would hover above the original World Trade Towers foot prints, but not touch them. The open latticework towers would be joined by a series of cultural buildings designed by each of the team’s architects, powered by two giant wind turbines.

+ THINK Design and Architecture

A sunken garden, rather than a new tower, was the focus for the redesign by Peterson/Littenberg. Set in the foundations of the original WTC towers, the garden is a lush oasis from city life, containing an open-air amphitheater with 2,979 seats- one for each victim of 9/11. The September 11th Museum is located underground, below the stadium.

+ Peterson/Littenberg

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill’s original proposal, before withdrawing and then being named consultant, was a dense grid of vertical structures which would encapsulate 16 acres on the ground and 16 acres in sky gardens, which would reconnect the city.

+ Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

United Architects’ design fused five towers that joined to form a cathedral-like enclosure over an outdoor public promenade. Seventy five feet below street level, the project created a viewing point, asking visitors to look up at the sky, rather than looking down at the holes which once held the original building’s foundations — a symbol of optimism and peace.

+ United Architects


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  1. jointheleanrat January 25, 2014 at 10:27 pm

    Thanks for reminding us of the the mediocrity that has risen there but it’s not untypical for NYC… Look at the Time Warner building…. We rarely get the great architecture and when we do it’s still compromise! I cite Sir Norman Foster’s Hearst tower!

  2. feline74 November 20, 2013 at 8:22 pm

    If memory serves correct, the proposal I liked most at the time was from Paolo Solieri–it was for a cone structure with a concave curve to the vertical rise. The result was that building occupants could climb out of their windows and slide to safety in an emergency!

  3. caeman September 15, 2011 at 8:20 am

    Those big ugly towers may be ugly, but they are space-efficient. Because they are square, there is no wasted living/working space.

  4. mary 33492104 September 15, 2011 at 2:39 am

    Liebiskind design was best, too bad when they don’t build the best Ugly stays for a long time. The towers were ugly as least they didn’t rebuild them, there were lots of good planning solutions, yet we don’t use them why? It is like people who don’t believe in climate change, there is a science to urban planning we know how people behave best in spaces, lets make it happen, missed opportunity.

  5. Chas September 8, 2011 at 12:21 pm

    The winning Liebiskind scheme would have been so much better that what we’ve ended up with. Any of these 6 six schemes would have been better than generic McTower garbage.
    For something so emotional, it’s really depressing to see what could have been.
    these towers are so generic and forgetable that you could pick them up and plop them in any downtown and it’s doubtful if anyone would even notice.
    the only shining light in all this is Calatravas train station which should be amazing.

  6. caeman September 8, 2011 at 9:07 am

    Simple is good. Some of those designs look really neat, but a simple talk building back where it used to be is what is really needed. Does everything have to look like art?

  7. r4gm4n September 7, 2011 at 6:14 pm

    The design that should have ( and can still be used ) is the design to recreate the original towers ether be bigger, stronger, taller / the ultimate standpoint to the evil that destroyed the originals. Also aesthetically pleasing too