Complex of angular buildings to replace World Trade Center

NEW YORK -- A cluster of sloping, angular buildings with a 1,776-foot spire that would be the tallest in the world was chosen Wednesday as the blueprint to redevelop the World Trade Center site, The Associated Press has learned.

Architect Daniel Libeskind's design beat a plan by an international design team known as THINK, which envisioned two 1,665-foot latticework towers straddling the footprints of the original towers, said a source familiar with the selection. An official announcement is expected today.

The choice of the soaring design, which pays homage to the year America declared its independence, was made by a committee of representatives from the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the offices of the governor and mayor.

Both Gov. George Pataki and Mayor Michael Bloomberg favored the Libeskind plan, an important factor in the decision, said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

LMDC Chairman John Whitehead telephoned Libeskind with the news, the source said, telling the architect his "vision has brought hope and inspiration to a city still recovering from a terrible tragedy."

Libeskind, who is based in Berlin, declined comment. The source said he told the LMDC chairman that being selected is "a life-changing experience."

Deciding what to do with the 16-acre site in Lower Manhattan has been wrenching at times. Relatives of the nearly 2,800 people who died at Ground Zero called for memorials with a sense of respect and grace, while business officials and others said the city cannot afford to lose too much office space.

The Libeskind design called for 70 stories of offices, with airy "gardens of the world" beckoning tourists above office level. It included five starkly geometrical towers and several smaller cultural buildings around the foundations of the fallen towers.

The plan, which may undergo revisions, also called for a Park of Heroes, and a memorial encompassing the footprints of the fallen towers. The spire was designed to house a garden all the way to its top, and not office space, because "gardens are a constant affirmation of life," Libeskind said in December.

He has estimated the cost of building his design at $330 million.

Developer Larry Silverstein, who owns the lease on the trade center site, said earlier this month he was not satisfied with either plan.

Howard Rubenstein, a spokesman for Silverstein, said Wednesday he "has great respect for the architect," and looks forward to working with him to "get this project moving."

Rubenstein said Silverstein had no comment on the elements of the plan.

The design competition was launched after an initial set of plans, released in July, was derided as boring and overstuffed with office space. Nine proposals were unveiled Dec. 18.

The two finalists each featured buildings surpassing Malaysia's 1,483-foot Petronas Twin Towers, the tallest in the world. The World Trade Center towers stood 1,350 feet tall. A small number of telecommunications towers would still be taller than the Libeskind spire.

After the two finalists were chosen, both were asked to revise their designs to make them more easily realized. Libeskind, whose original design called for a memorial 70 feet below ground, reportedly changed that to 30 feet, allowing for infrastructure and transportation underneath.

Lee Ielpi, whose firefighter son died in the Sept. 11 attack, praised the design because it preserved much of the sunken area within the twin towers' foundation.

"That land was consecrated by the blood of the people who were lost that day," Ielpi said.

The final plan could be altered to accommodate victims' relatives who don't approve of plans to build parking areas at the base of the 70-foot pit, the source said.

Libeskind, 57, has said he included the sunken space because he was inspired by the immense slurry walls that hold back the Hudson River -- what he says are the most dramatic elements to survive the terrorist attack. He wanted visitors to be able to visit the hallowed ground in a quiet, meditative space.

Other revisions to the plan were not disclosed Wednesday, but Libeskind's design as presented in December called for a museum in that sunken space, near where he envisioned a memorial will be placed.

A separate competition for a memorial design will begin this spring.

The LMDC was created by Pataki and former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani after Sept. 11 to oversee the rebuilding of the trade center site and downtown Manhattan. The Port Authority owns the site.


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