Gallery: What Ever Happened to Daniel Libeskind’s Original WTC Freedom ...

Libeskind's design was a twisting, angular glass structure that stood 1,776 feet tall. The exact height (1776) was chosen to coincide with the date of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The spire on top of the building reached out on one side to mirror the Statue of Liberty's arm, a visual Libeskind remembers himself as he arrived in New York on boat from Poland as a child.

Months after the 9/11 attacks, Governor Pataki established the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation as an official commission to oversee the rebuilding process of ground zero. After years of vetoing design after design, they opened the floor for an international competition to see who had the best idea of what to do with the barren World Trade Center space. While Daniel Libeskind’s striking design exuding emotion, power, and spirit won over the committees, there were other powers at play.

Though the World Trade Center is mostly owned by the Port Authority, real estate developer Larry Silverstein holds a monstrous 99-year lease on the property. Not to be over-powered, Silverstein found it his “absolute right” to choose his own architect for the rebuilding of the towers and he picked David Childs from Skidmore Owings and Merrill to “collaborate” with Libeskind. Suddenly Libeskind was reassigned from architect to “master site planner” as lines were erased and redrawn in a frenzy that leaked to the press as a messy battles of egos while the World Trade Center site sat untouched.

Libeskind’s original design was enormously heartfelt and full of symbolism. The main tower, dubbed the Freedom Tower until Port Authority nixed the name in 2009, was a twisting, angular glass structure that stood 1,776 feet tall. The exact height (1776) was chosen to coincide with the date of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The spire on top of the building reached out on one side to mirror the Statue of Liberty’s arm, a visual Libeskind remembers himself as he arrived in New York on boat from Poland as a child. The tower included a 70 foot pit exposing the undisturbed bedrock beneath the buildings and an elevated promenade circling the structure. The plan also included five smaller skyscrapers surrounding the tower and a plaza called the “Wedge of Light” which would align with the sun on the anniversary of the attacks each year.

While time ticked by, and the public, politicians, and developers grew angry, Libeskind was forced to compromise his vision and work out a final plan with Childs. The current design, which will be completed in 2013, will be the tallest building in the United States. The diagonal edges have been traded in for a more boxed shape and the surrounding towers have been axed in favor of a larger spire on top of the building. The pit has risen 40 feet and removed the bedrock and there will be no  “Wedge of Light” or promenade. Nearly all but the building’s height has been changed from Libeskind’s design, leaving him responsible for about 4 percent of the estimated square footage.

Regardless of the changes, Libeskind is remarkably serene about the ordeal, saying recently: “In the end, the public will see the symbolism of the site. Of course, compromises had to be made, but a master plan is not about a few lines drawn on paper. It’s about an idea.” Idealistic to the end, he adds, “I think when it’s built, people will forget the squabbles.” Though his design will not come to fruition in total, he has been undoubtedly catapulted into the spotlight with an aesthetic that is hard to forget.

+ Daniel Libeskind

via New York Magazine

LEAVE A COMMENT

or your inhabitat account below

Let's make sure you're a real person:


9 Comments

  1. Boomer1962 May 11, 2012 at 12:02 pm

    Daniel Libeskind’s original “Memory Foundations” plan to replace the destroyed Twin Towers NEVER won the hearts of New Yorkers. Period. The entire Lower Manhattan Development Corporation’s public process was a total sham. They never presented to the public, or to the press, that there was on option already in place, to ‘Rebuild’ the lost Twin Towers. See the LMDC’s FGEIS (Final Generic Enviornmental Impact Statement, chapter 23, section 23.1) They had a “Restoration Alternative” that would have replaced the lost Twin Towers, with updated technology. Donald Trump was correct. He said at his press conference, in May of 2005, “If we build this, then the terrorists have won.” New York City has been betrayed by corrupt politicians.

  2. Bridget Wakelin December 5, 2011 at 10:42 pm

    Dear editor,
    I believe Daniel Libeskinds design for the original World Trade Center was beautiful and symbolic. It helped to identify what was lost and destroyed that horrific day and put it into perspective. The original design had hope and showed spirit to help rebuild something that was so devastatingly lost. I understand many people dislike this design because they feel as if it should remain the same as it was before, simple and beautiful in its own way, but with this new design it represented all the lives lost that day and the people who lost loved ones. Lineskinds design showed true spirit and how much we’ve changed over these past 10 years. The original Twin Towers will be missed, but Libeskinds design should have remained.

  3. Miquel Kumar September 12, 2011 at 12:34 am

    It’s sad and quite pathetic that economics takes precedence over a site with such emotion. Spirit, resolve, heroism, pain, humility are the essence of this site. I love the memorial and how it captures the past. I just wish the structure presented the future in a way as powerful.
    A side note, the engineer(s) who lack vision and says it can’t be done or it’s impractical need to get out of the box.

  4. christopherburd September 10, 2011 at 3:27 pm

    cathyrust:

    The best that can be said about the ROM addition is that it can probably be torn down some day without too much difficulty. Still, not everything bad in it is Libeskind’s fault. Moving the entrance around the corner (adjacent to a high-end retail area) was part of the brief, a way of positioning the museum as a lifestyle venue for the well-to-do. The original plan’s massive use of glass was also a client request. Staff eventually pointed out that direct sunlight destroys many museum artifacts.

    Sorry for the OT, but the whole thing makes one rather GRRRRRRR about both modern architects AND their patrons. Same story in New York, it seems, at a larger scale.

  5. Chas September 8, 2011 at 12:39 pm

    Daniel Libiskinds vision would have been so much better than what we’ve ended up with. Any of the other 6 schemes would have been better than the generic McTowers that are beng built.
    for something so emotional, it’s such a let down.
    these towers are so generic utterly fogetable that they could be picked up and plopped into any metropolitan area and it’s doubtful that anyone would even notice.
    the only shining light is Calatravas train station which should be magnificent. I wonder what the engineers had to say about that?

  6. geith September 8, 2011 at 12:20 pm

    Gehry’s and FLW’s buildings among many others have been called impossible to build in the past. If we were to listen to all the naysayers, we’d be left with unimaginative blocks with windows. Thanks to all of those who seek to defy the improbable and impossible to push for boundaries of architecture’s limits.

    I think Libeskind’s original plan and designs were a flowing, singular and coherent vision that would have unified the area with a grace nod to the Statue of Liberty. It’s Liebeskind’s attention to detail that caused Calatrava to adjust the position of the hub and to shave off a portion of WTC 2 to allow for a shaft of sunlight to penetrate the hub and plaza each year on 9/11 exactly at the time the planes hit.

    It’s a shame this vision couldn’t have been realized more effectively. What we’re left with is an architectural hodgepodge of egos gone awry. It could have been so very much better.

  7. cathyrust September 7, 2011 at 4:03 pm

    The changes to the original design might not be as bad as Molly Cotter laments. While Libeskind’s ideas are wonderful in theory, the reality turns out to be impractical. Libeskind designed the addition to the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto and trust me when I tell you it is unimpressive in so many ways. On the outside it looks not like the gemstone I think it’s supposed to, but more like a wart on the side of an otherwise classical building now ruined by this addition. Further, walking around inside the addition is difficult because of the wonky walls being at all different angles. It is quite easy to bang your head against the walls (spoken from experience). Finally, the addition moved the main entrance from being right across from the subway entrance/exit to around the corner, which in the middle of winter is extremely unpleasant. Perhaps the co-architect has brought some practicality into the design that the original lacked.

  8. lazyreader September 7, 2011 at 1:58 pm

    Libeskind never designed a highrise building before he was commissioned to do this in ’03. the design went through many revisions largely because of disagreements with Larry Silverstein, who held the lease to the World Trade Center. Never mind the fact that engineers said that Libeskind original building wasn’t structurally feasible. Architects only design it’s overall appearance, how it is possible to build is the responsibility of engineers. And numerous engineers said it would have been impossible. Since the original proposal, the plan has undergone numerous redesigns in order to appease safety regulations and engineering guidelines. Libeskind’s design calls for a 1,362-foot usable structure with an additional 414-foot glass spire that symbolizes the duality between our strength and fragility. Despite how wonderful this may sound on paper, it is virtually impossible to build because glass cannot support its own weight to such a degree. This case of architectural idiocy only reflects the unfortunate truth about the direction of architectural design. With the development of new computer software programs make it so that anyone who took a year of school can design a skyscraper. It can be a beautiful building, but with no knowledge of engineering those designs are relegated to the flash drive. Maybe there should be a new building on the World Trade Center site and it should have been built years ago. There should never have been the hasty and uneducated choice of an impractical design. As a result, designers and contractors who spent years trying to finalize a design will now spend more years trying to build it, despite the fact that it may not have even been possible in the first place, what a waste of money.

    Even in it’s current configuration the WTC site in general is an example of just about everything wrong with modern government. The price tag will make it by far, the most expensive office building ever constructed in America, yet it will add just 2.6 million square feet of office space in a city that doesn’t need it. Even when the original, 13.4 million-square-foot World Trade Center was destroyed, Manhattan already had more than enough vacant office space to make up for it’s loss. According to a report I found downtown Manhattan alone currently has more than 10 million square feet of vacant space. This along with the memorial itself will be just one part of a staggering 11 billion dollars worth of government sponsored construction. How fitting that we celebrate the attack that led to the most expensive war we’ve ever fought with the most expensive war memorial ever built. To pay for this new building, which is renting out for half the amount needed to repay its costs, the Port Authority is planning to increase the tolls on the six bridges and tunnels into Manhattan that it controls. I don’t mind if auto user fees are used to pay for our roads, New York City just wants to get as much money from motorists as possible to spend on boondoggles like the Second Avenue Subway, the East Side Access tunnel, and the new Trade Center. The Skyscraper as an experiment is obsolete in America where an abundance of cheap land permits companies to headquarter elsewhere where taxes are lower and development easier. And small business is growing faster than big businesses, why would they choose to operate in a highrise; how could they afford the rent.

  9. charlie harrison September 7, 2011 at 11:14 am

    looks like the pru in Boston not very cutting edge for a city that is…