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New York Daily Photo: Ground Zero
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Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Ground Zero

People always ask me about progress at the site of the former World Trade Center - here is Ground Zero in its current state. Mired in controversy since day one, the project is finally underway - steel should be rising above street level this year, 2008, seven years after 9/11 with occupancy anticipated in 2011. One tower or two?, taller than the World Trade center?, how tall?, how much a part should the memorial play? Freedom Tower? are among the questions which dragged the process down. Of course the design itself, won by Daniel Liebskind, has been the largest struggle. I originally saw the design competition presentations at the World Financial Center and went to a number of presentations. There were several extremely innovative designs by some of the top firms - I remember one design which called for floors of interior gardens.
However, there have been many individuals and organizations with various controlling interests in this process: Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, who own the right to develop the site, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation who ran the design competition, Larry Silverstein who had signed a 99-year lease for the World Trade Center site in July 2001, architects Daniel Liebskind and David Childs. The original plans by Daniel Liebskind saw many changes and now, David Childs (one of Silverstein's favored architects) is in charge of the Freedom Tower's design.
In its final incarnation, the tower will rise from a cubic base with tapered chamfered edges, forming a tall antiprism with eight isosceles triangles, forming a perfect octagon at its center. It will be capped with an illuminated spire containing an antenna. The total height will be 1776 feet (marking the year of the signing of the American Declaration of Independence).
The name of the building itself has come into severe criticism - a number of articles have said the design is defined more by fear than by freedom - some have called it the Fear Tower. Understandably, many of the structural design considerations have been built around possible future terrorist attacks. In an article entitled Medieval Modern: Design Strikes a Defensive Posture by Nicolai Ouroussoff, architecture critic for the NY Times, Nicolai says: "The most chilling example of the new medievalism is New York’s Freedom Tower, which was once touted as a symbol of enlightenment. Designed by David Childs of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, it rests on a 20-story, windowless fortified concrete base decorated in prismatic glass panels in a grotesque attempt to disguise its underlying paranoia."


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