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Wall Street Journal
5/17/06

Triplet Towers; Three Architects Conjure Up Three New Skyscrapers for Trade Center

THREE ARCHITECTS. Three skyscrapers. Four months. And one war room.

That's the recipe World Trade Center developer Larry Silverstein is using to cook up a dynamic trio of skyscrapers by Sept. 20, the deadline he and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey have set for signing a definitive rebuilding plan for the office and retail space at Ground Zero.

The 74-year-old mogul selected three world-class but far-flung architects -- Richard Rogers and Norman Foster from London, and Fumihiko Maki from Tokyo -- to design three skyscrapers that will line Greenwich Street. This week Mr. Silverstein closeted their top people in a makeshift design studio on the 25th floor of 7 World Trade Center, overlooking Ground Zero. With a view of famous downtown skyscrapers and the trade center's dusty pit as inspiration, the architects have two formidable tasks: invent inspiring forms for the towers and resolve design dilemmas that have bedeviled the project. Arriving alongside the architects any day now will be two representatives from the Port Authority, which owns the site and whose board must approve the plans before the agreement with Mr. Silverstein becomes official.

Mr. Silverstein and the Port Authority came to a tentative agreement over his role in the project after months of delay and finger- pointing. But the pending pact hinges on time and design. The plan envisions that two of Mr. Silverstein's three towers will be under construction by mid-2007 and all three finished by 2012. A key sticking point: whether Mr. Silverstein and the Port Authority can agree on how to divvy up the tightly packed space among offices, stores and a warren of underground passageways, truck tunnels, bus parking and electrical utility lines.

Mr. Silverstein has wanted three architects even before the time squeeze; he has said he prefers the diversity of three visions. The old World Trade Center, derided by critics, were the singular vision of one architect, Minoru Yamasaki.

Each architect will create a concept for one of the three towers that will line the east side of Greenwich Street, currently a long strip of concrete dotted with weeds that runs through the middle of the site. Two more architecture firms will provide back up: Adamson Associates of Toronto will produce the actual blueprints; RTKL Associates of Baltimore, is a consultant on retail issues.

Messrs. Foster, Maki, and Rogers are all considered at the top of their architectural games. They won't literally be working side by side in the war room, but their top design partners will. They include Mike Davies, Richard Rogers's New York representative, who stands out in the mostly suit-and-tie crowd. He sports a ponytail behind his balding pate and a long bushy beard and wears red pants with a red shirt and a red tie -- a daily ensemble, colleagues say. ("I like red. That's the simplest answer," he explains, a red folder in hand).

Each firm also has an unmistakable style. The best works of Foster and Partners are powerful and innovative, like the Swiss Re headquarters in London -- nicknamed the "gherkin" for its rounded shape -- or the zig-zag facade of Hearst Corp.'s New York headquarters. Maki and Associates' style is elegant and minimalist, like the repeating geometric shapes that rise up Mr. Maki's Yokohama I-land tower. Richard Rogers and Partners' work is eclectic, but decidedly modern. His best-known works include the Millennium Dome in London and the Pompidou Centre in Paris, which he designed with Renzo Piano.

The firms sound jazzed about the collaboration. Most large scale architectural projects are shared, Mr. Davies says, including Berlin's Potsdamer Platz. And unlike collaborations gone awry, such as that between Daniel Libeskind and David Childs over the Freedom Tower, each architect here gets his own building. "We'll be absolutely open. We'll be alongside each other and ... the strongest synergies will flow," Mr. Davies says. "So you shouldn't get into a conflicting situation, but an opportunity situation."

The final say on design goes to Mr. Silverstein, as the towers' private developer. Also weighing in will be officials at the Port Authority, which also owns the retail space, including some inside Mr. Silverstein's buildings.

Since the rebuilding plans were unveiled in 2002, Ground Zero has been a den of architectural disputes. Two inspiring design competitions for a site master plan and memorial to the victims have been followed with years of acrimony among designers, developers and government officials. The memorial plans have gone back to the drawing board due to runaway costs.

Mr. Silverstein hopes putting the architects in a virtual pressure cooker will create a happier outcome. "We don't have the luxury of architectural disputes anymore," says Janno Lieber, Mr. Silverstein's World Trade Center project director. "It's an incredible undertaking not accomplishable unless everyone is in one room and working under one design process."

Besides the office towers and retail space, the site plan includes a fourth tower tentatively slated for residential development plus the Freedom Tower; a memorial; a transit hub; a performing arts center and possibly a hotel. A small Greek Orthodox church destroyed in the attacks also will be rebuilt.

Mr. Silverstein has struggled to find tenants for his building at 7 World Trade Center, which is set to open next week with just 71/2 of 42 rentable floors occupied. Under the tentative rebuilding agreement, Mr. Silverstein is no longer responsible for filling the Freedom Tower, which has been ceded to the Port Authority. He does have to fill the three office towers, though, comprising 6.2 million square feet. The Port Authority and New York City government already have agreed to take 1.2 million of the space.

If Mr. Silverstein and the Port Authority can't agree on how to configure the office towers and the retail space, the deal could implode. The Port Authority plans to sell the right to own and operate the shops for several hundred million dollars and wants to maximize their value by putting retail space in the three towers' prime street- level areas. Mr. Silverstein could decide to submit a bid for the retail space. Meanwhile, he has to worry about luring businesses to the towers' upper floors by way of spacious, street-level lobbies, alongside the shopping space.

It is up to the architects to find a solution that makes everyone happy. Mr. Libeskind's trade-center master plan and draft design- guidelines, which dictate the size and placement of the buildings, call for the densely packed towers to get taller as they approach the signature Freedom Tower, on the site's northwest corner. The Freedom Tower is set to be the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere at a symbolic 1,776 feet. Mr. Foster's Tower 2 will rise somewhere from 1,300 feet to 1,450 feet; Mr. Rogers's Tower 3 from 1,250 to 1,350 feet; and Mr. Maki's Tower 4 from 1,200 feet to 1,300 feet. The Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, were 1,362 and 1,368 feet tall.


It is too soon to tell what the towers will look like. The architects were filled with optimism that they will create a coherent ensemble rather than an architectural mishmash. "We are building in a very tight fabric," says Maki associate Gary Kamemoto. "These towers have to be respectful to each other."

Early Monday morning, the architects and their helpers were unpacking computers and placing them on desks. Their first job was to create a functioning architectural production space and command center for a staff of 35.

The architects crowded around two long wood tables pushed together near the windows overlooking the towers' site. Outside, great skyscrapers of the past, including Cass Gilbert's Woolworth Building, once the world's tallest, dotted the view. Printouts of the trade center site plan sprawled atop the tables.

The architects leaned over the plans and gabbed about how to get started. A topic of basic concern: What is the best way to convert centimeters to inches? The architects live in the metric system, but the U.S. construction industry is still a business of inches.

Mr. Foster, who has been working on his tower since the winter, has a conceptual model -- normally a closely guarded secret. But Messrs. Maki and Rogers need copies of it so they can take it into account when designing their own towers. "We want exactly what Foster has in his office," demanded Mickey Kupperman, who is refereeing the process for Mr. Silverstein. "We need one here, one in Tokyo and two in London."

Should they make the models in New York and then ship them around the world? "Crazy," someone chimed in. The solution: Have the drawings and photos sent overseas, and the models glued locally.

At one point, he silenced the room. "Time Out. We have an important administrative announcement." Yvette Wright, a Silverstein building manager, asked participants if they want 12- or 24-hour access. Everyone signed up for 24.
 

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richardsonhomebuyers said:
Sounds good. Hopefully they can finally get something worked out. I think it would be awesome to have all those supertalls there. I don't get the part about the Fredom tower being the tallest in the Western Hemisphere. Maybe they should put tallest in the Western Hemisphere until the Fordham Spire is built.
The FT is under construction. I doubt that the Fordham Spire will be built due to the downturn in the real estate market.

Anyway, here's hoping that the heights cited for the WTC towers do not include 300 foot antennas! These buildings are the last chance to build mega tall towers in NY since the city is so anti-height. Look at how the residents of Turtle Bay are busting Solow's chops over an 850 tower!
 

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LLoydGeorge said:
The FT is under construction. I doubt that the Fordham Spire will be built due to the downturn in the real estate market.

Anyway, here's hoping that the heights cited for the WTC towers do not include 300 foot antennas! These buildings are the last chance to build mega tall towers in NY since the city is so anti-height. Look at how the residents of Turtle Bay are busting Solow's chops over an 850 tower!
Yeah. I would love to see NYC return to glory with 3 great towers. Hopefully they are majestic with out antennas!
 

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Wow!! It will be a living Contemporary Architecture Park; pity about what happened to the design of Freedom Tower, a definite sour note.
 

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thanks to knarfor from the skyscraperpage.com forum :cheers:


knarfor said:
The original plan, then two of the many possibilities.



If we are right about Silverstein adding extra space to the towers, it will look like the third rendering. If not, it will probably look something like option 2. Or, it nothing we have read is true at all, we're still looking at the original.
 

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i love option two... it creates a lovely peek to the nyc skyline making it look more stable and impressive... compositionaly of course.

but i hear there is a shortage of office space there so option 3 will probly be the one they go with
 

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Nice trick from Silverstein. I'm curious if he will insure those towers for billions of dollars too.

Btw, the towers look damn great!
 

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Those towers are just fillers; it's a little too early to know what they will look like, but we should know soon, before October, I suppose.
 

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Dr. Dubai said:
Nice trick from Silverstein. I'm curious if he will insure those towers for billions of dollars too.

Btw, the towers look damn great!
lol good said....

I like this plan, hella cool...Built IT!!!!

 
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