Some may think it is too soon to discuss rebuilding The World Trade Center. Perhaps they are right, in some ways--we still need to find and grieve for and bury our dead, and we need to remove the rubble that the buildings have become. If thinking about this now is uncomfortable to you, stop reading now--it is not my intention to offend.

There will soon become a need to know what will happen with the land, and what that is may affect the current salvage and removal efforts (especially once they inevitably shift from rescue to recovery.)

In the days after the attack. I envisioned new Twin Towers, for some reason golden colored instead of the silver that the old towers (yes, they're now the old towers) were. While we're at it, let's add another 20 or 30 stories to them, making sure they are once again the tallest buildings in the world. The skyline would be largely the same as before, but also different, perhaps befitting as a memorial to the fallen (who are all, essentially, war heroes.)

Clearly, these new buildings would have do be done a little differently. The most important thing is some way of getting people out faster than the hours it used to take--hours that these people didn't have. Alternately, you try and figure out how to make the buildings stand longer under the intense fires they were subjected too. I must say that now I understand why there is fireproofing on structural steel. I hope that advances in safety technology and engineering can at least improve the chances of those who would work in such a building. Of course, there's also dealing with the airport security issues that allowed this to happen--before September 11, 2001, no one thought this could happen. Now that we know it can, we have to acknowledge it.

The other question is who would rent space in these things if they were rebuilt? You can convince people all you want about escape routes, fire safety, and the security of our airways, but that will never eliminate the fact that it happened. So it's possible the buildings could never be used if they were rebuilt. That surely is not an appropriate thing to have happen.

I heard a few days ago the landlord of the World Trade Center is considering four 50-story towers where 2 110 story towers once stood. Most of the other buildings in downtown Manhattan are that height, so they would fit in fine, and you'll have the same amount of office space (the way air rights in Manhattan work, you'd need less open space around shorter buildings so the ground area would probably be about the same.) There was also talk of a memorial, which is crucial in my opinion.

With the practicality in mind, my idea for the new World Trade Center is to have the 4 buildings as above, but with 2 of them, build a tower similar to the original buildings, on top of the habitable space, to the height (or taller) of the original buildings. This would be a superstructure akin to the Eiffel Tower, not used for office space, possibly with an observation tower on top, as well as the antennas and other facilities that were on top of the original building. This would restore the skyline and the empty shells of the buildings would serve as a memorial for all who lost their lives. Hopefully this can be made so if it were damaged it wouldn't take the rest of the building down--and there would be considerably fewer people to evacuate in the buildings as well. Perhaps have some sort of rescue device for the observation decks that could be released in the event of a disaster.

Personally, I would still love to see two new towers, fully used, than the former solution. I'd like to see these towers dedicated during the opening ceremonies of the 2012 Olympics that would be held in New York City, when we can say we've dealt with the problem of terrorism and have been able to create a truly free world where everyone shares in the benefits of society and democracy. That would be a great memorial to the fallen, in my opinion.

An Open Letter to the LMDC (Lower Manhattan Development Corporation) in response to the proposals unveiled 7/16/02

This email was sent to as feedback. For more information, see the following URL:

Dear Sirs et Mesdames-

While I commend the obvious effort put forth by all concerned in producing these six proposed plans for the WTC site, I must write you to register my strong disappointment in the results. My reaction is based on the following core emotional responses and beliefs:

There is not nearly enough variance between choices. The plans imply a selection process that somewhere acquired an inflexible and relatively bland set of 'bounds' which were not the result of functional constraints of the requirements (such as the rail hub, office space footage, etc.) The sheer similarity of these six options resonates strongly of an attempt to either avoid offending anyone and/or an attempt to dictate key features of the eventual design through the Magician's Choice.

There is no plan which offers anywhere near the presence the Towers had in the New York skyline. If we permit the 'new' WTC to sink below the uncompromising statement of daring and enterprise displayed by the sheer scale of the original towers, we have allowed this cowardly attack on our nation to serve to further hasten the 'homogenization of America' as all our urban structures sink to a 'comfortable average size' and composition. We cannot allow this to happen.

Make no mistake, this reconstruction is not simply a 'Lower Manhattan development project.' The eventual structures placed here will serve as the United States' response to the world and the forces which conspired to destroy the originals. A blander, shorter, less striking edifice serves only to kowtow to those who feel the U.S. is too arrogant, too selfish, too craven, and too weak to defend its ideals in the world arena.

As commentary by several workers on the Pentagon reconstruction emphasized, their unstinting and heroic efforts to restore that building to full form and function (in less than a year!) are nothing short of the efforts displayed by Americans in wartimes past, pressing to make sure their nation is not embarrassed or failed by their efforts. Surely New York City, as the target of this horror and one of the biggest symbols of the U.S., can do no less!

This brings up my third point, which is more difficult to deal with.

The demands of the families of the dead for ever more 'memorial space' and acreage must be resisted. While I in no way would ever presume to comprehend or belittle their suffering, I would ask how they want their loved ones remembered...through a park which sits quietly where there was once a bustling business district? Or through a proud and powerful reconstruction of the area which the original towers made such a crossroads of the world? I myself must lean for the latter. This is not to say that acreage cannot be set aside for memorials; indeed, it would be churlish to suggest otherwise. However, there is ample space at the WTC site to provide for memorials without compromising the structural use of the site for the building of New York's newest entrant into the realm of Superpower Architecture.

In sum, ladies and gentlemen, I urge you, please! Think carefully on what will follow the towers. While they were not necessarily pretty, and were in many ways dysfunctional, the act of their destruction has set a context for the rebuilding of the site. We cannot judge what will follow them without carefully considering how they will appear in the eyes not only of the families and the insurance companies, but how well the new construction will represent our Nation and the ideals it represents. Ideals, I may add, that were the direct target of the attack, and which will consequently be characterized by our response.

Thank you for your time and attention.

The Custodian yes, I used my real name in the email!
Born and raised, 111th st. and Broadway

Update: (7/20/02) Well, I'm not alone. CNN is reporting that during a 'town meeting' in New York City, quote,
"Half of the approximately 4,000 people who voted on the six proposals rated four as poor and expressed only mild approval for the other two plans."

Choice comments and feedback from the 4,000 participants include:

  • "It looks like Albany." (CNN noted that this was not a compliment.)
  • "(Some)...urged that new, more ambitious, more monumental designs be submitted."
  • Concerns were expressed that the plans do not suitably 'revitalize' the downtown area, being simply yet more antiseptic 'closed after 7pm' office and high-end retail space.

Round 1

After September 11, 2001, George Pataki and Rudolph Giuliani created the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation ( to handle the redevelopment of the fallen World Trade Center site, as well as the economic revitalization of Manhattan south of Houston Street. At first, the shock of the 9/11 attacks led Giuliani, as well as many New Yorkers and Americans in general, to believe that rebuilding the WTC would be an affront to the memory of those who died there. However, as the preceding writeups indicate, this sentiment was not very long-lived. Several plans were proposed to the LMDC in July 2002 for a new World Trade Center. They looked like this:
  1. Memorial Plaza: One 79-story tower, with four smaller towers on the eastern edge of the WTC lot. 18 acres of park space would be left in the center, with the footprints of the twin towers as a memorial.
  2. Memorial Square: One cylindrical 80-story tower at the northeast corner. The property is ringed by an elevated plaza: the lowered middle is a 24-acre park with the footprints of the twin towers left intact. Three smaller office buildings would be placed at the other corners.
  3. Memorial Triangle: (see a pattern developing here?) One 85-story stepped building, again flanked by five smaller towers. 13 acres of park in the middle, with the footprints intact.
  4. Memorial Garden: One 86-story John Hancock Building. Smaller buildings, 6.8 acres of park space, and the obligatory footprints.
  5. Memorial Park: No footprints in this one: instead, an obelisk marks the site of the original towers, and five buildings are built on the eastern edge of the property.
  6. Memorial Promenade: Two 63-story towers flanked by four 32-story towers. This was generally regarded as the best of the original six plans, and won by a large margin in a New York Post readers' poll, mostly because it was the only plan that involved building another Twin Towers, and restoring the skyline of Manhattan to something resembling its pre-2001 state.
All of these plans shared common traits. They were unambitious, uninteresting, and didn't live up to the reputation of the original World Trade Center. So the LMDC ended up throwing them out and inviting another competition.

Round 2

In August, LMDC called for new design submissions for the WTC site. They received 406 submissions from six continents, and ended up giving $40,000 contracts to seven architectural firms for detailed proposals. The firms were instructed to design a context for a future memorial, not to attempt to design the memorial itself. They were told that their designs had to be inspiring, tall, and powerful, with the capability to be deeply interconnected with the transportation and commercial networks of lower Manhattan. Of course, there was also an unwritten rule: the buildings had to be incredibly safe, capable of being evacuated in a matter of minutes, and definitely impervious to a collision with a widebody airliner.

The seven resulting proposals are:

  1. Studio Libeskind, Berlin: The centerpiece of the Libeskind proposal is a 1,776-foot angular steel spire, more than 400 feet higher than the original WTC, surrounded by several smaller angular towers. 6 acres would be left for memorial space.
  2. Foster and Partners, London: A single 1,765-foot tower would be built, using triangular panels that intersect with each other to give the building the impression of twin towers. It would be constructed to the east of the WTC's footprints.
  3. Meier Eisenman Gwathmey Holl, New York: Five 1,111-foot buildings. They are arranged in a set of two and a set of three at right angles to each other: the towers in each set are connected by aerial walkways to give them a grid-like appearance. Pools of water would stand at the towers' footprints, with their old shadows marked on the ground.
  4. THINK Team, international: THINK has put forward three proposals. The most ambitious of these is a World Cultural Center, which would have two 2,100-foot cage-like towers surrounding shorter buildings connected by an aerial walkway. Another proposal is the Great Room, a white glass house built over the WTC site, with the footprints of the twin towers cut out. In essence, it would be a negative of the original World Trade Center. The Sky Park, their third proposal, would feature three 1,700-foot towers.
  5. United Architects, international: Perhaps the most unorthodox proposal of all involves five towers, which eventually bend and fuse into each other to finish in a single tower at 1,620 feet and 112 stories. If you've ever played SimCity 2000 and remember what a Darco looks like... well, that's what UA's proposal looks like.
  6. Stephen Peterson and Barbara Littenberg, New York: This couple is the dark horse of the competition, two small-time architects with a totally unambitious plan. Their concept features twin towers 1,400 feet tall, in an early industrial style remniscient of the Empire State Building. Between the two towers would be a large promenade, opening up on a massive green space memorial: the old South Tower would become a pool, while the North Tower would become an amphitheater with 2,792 seats, one for each victim of the attack.
  7. Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, New York: The last firm competing has the most impressive resume, having designed the Sears Tower and the headquarters of AOL Time Warner. Their plan, the Vertical City, calls for nine 1,000-foot, 80-story buildings on the WTC site, connected at several points. Half of the site would be used as a reflecting pool.
The plans were presented on December 19, 2002, and the LMDC expects to make a decision by February on the future of the World Trade Center site.

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