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 Monday, 13 January, 2003, 14:57 GMT
New Yorkers debate WTC plans
Proposed WTC plan by Richard Meier and Partners
It is hoped the building will heal the wounded skyline
New Yorkers get their say this week about what will happen to the site of the World Trade Center, as public hearings open into the nine proposed designs.

The first of the hearings will begin in lower Manhattan at 1800 (2300 GMT) on Monday and will be simultaneously broadcast to locations across the city.

It makes the statement that we may have been attacked, but we'll rebuild and come back stronger than ever

Meyer Feig, WTC Tenants Association
In the wake of 11 September many predicted the death of the skyscraper, but the architects seem to disagree - five of the nine designs call for structures bigger than the current world's tallest building, the Petronas Towers in Malaysia.

The jury is out on whether the people of New York have developed acrophobia, but one thing is clear - they are united in calling for a building that will reflect the horror of the attacks and honour those who died.

The proposals have come under massive scrutiny with more than six million people logging on to check the plans on the web and 70,000 viewing them in person.

A previous set of designs was dismissed by the people of New York, who said they were boring and did not provide an adequate memorial to those who died.

One of the proposed designs for rebuilding the World Trade Center by Think
Five designs are taller than the original towers

After that failure, the re-design effort was opened up to international competition, with the nine designs - by seven architecture companies - being selected from a field of more than 400.

The hearings will gather public opinion on how the designs rise to the challenge of constructing a building which serves both as vibrant thriving centre of the financial district and as a monument.

This is a tall order in itself - under the draft mission statement by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC) the new design must:

  • Remember and honour those killed.
  • Respect the place made sacred through tragic loss.
  • Pay tribute to those who survived and those who risked their lives.
  • By remembering those lost and their deeds, serve as a beacon to strengthen resolve to end hatred and intolerance.

The new proposals are all ambitious plans, with most calling for the building of a superstructure which would outstrip the original twin towers in height.

Some may argue that rebuilding the World Trade Center site with even taller skyscrapers is an act of hubris.

Worker's fears

Even former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani - regarded by many as the hero of 11 September - has spoken out against them, saying that no-one would want to work that high up again.

In August 2002, a New York Times/CBS survey found that 53% of respondents said that they would not want to work in the upper floors of a new tower.

New York's former Mayor Rudy Giuliani
Giuliani says no one will want to work that high

But Meyer Feig, who heads the World Trade Center Tenants Association, a group of about 130 small tenants based in the destroyed towers, disagrees.

He believes that in the 10 years or so it will take to build the new structure those fears will fade and safety techniques will improve.

Most of those he represents want to see something taller than the original twin towers on the site.

"It makes the statement that we may have been attacked, but we'll rebuild and come back stronger than ever," Mr Feig said.

Eternal target

Some argue that whatever height the building it will now always be a target, and that the absence of the twin towers puts the rest of New York at risk.

"Failing to rebuild full scale is what paints a bull's-eye on other landmarks," said Louis Epstein, founder of the World Trade Center Restoration Movement. "It emboldens the terrorists to do more."

A woman searches for a loved one lost in the WTC
Architects must ensure victims are suitably honoured

Most agree that the wound on New York's skyline must be healed with a dramatic building that will defy attackers, and that a tall building is the most likely candidate to do this.

But Beverly Willis, director of the Architecture Research Institute and a founder of a community group called Rebuild Downtown Our Town strikes a note of caution - insisting that the building be an architectural gem, too.

Erecting the world's tallest building without regard to the surrounding area "just seems to be not only impractical, but ostentatious and generally in bad taste," she said.

A final plan is to be selected in the next few weeks by the LMDC and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the site.

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  ON THIS STORY
  World Trade Centre
Click here to see the designs

Talking PointTALKING POINT
One of the WTC designsRebuilding NY
What do you think of the new WTC designs?
See also:

18 Dec 02 | Americas
12 Dec 02 | Americas
18 Dec 02 | Americas
21 Nov 02 | Americas
11 Mar 02 | Entertainment
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