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11 May, 2009

Ground Zero plans stumped

Posted by: admin In: Guardian

Impasse over rebuilding during recession puts towers designed by leading British architects in doubt

The impasse over the rebuilding at Ground Zero, which has left the site a gaping hole more than seven years after the September 11 attacks, appears to have put a stop to plans to build two dramatic new skyscrapers designed by Britain’s leading architects.

Ongoing wrangling between the Port Authority, which controls the site, and the private developer Larry Silverstein, who owned the World Trade Centre twin towers, has led to disputes over cost overruns and fears the new skyscrapers would remain empty in the depressed economic climate.

The Port Authority has now put forward a new blueprint that would see two of the four towers conceived for the Ground Zero reduced in scale and ambition.

They are Tower Two, a 79-storey, 387 metre (1,270ft) structure, designed by Norman Foster, and Tower Three, a 71storey, 347 metre (1,137ft) building by Richard Rogers.

The authority, aggrieved by the lack of progress at the site and the worsening economic condition, has come up with a radically reduced model.

The plan, leaked to the New York Daily News, would see Tower Two reduced to what the paper calls a “glorified, prettied-up stump” and Tower Three to “another stumpy building” — in both cases of maybe only four or five storeys.

The new proposal is a huge blow to the original masterplan of the architect Daniel Libeskind, which envisaged one dominant tower with three other towers curving around from it, encircling a central memorial to the 9/11 victims.

It will also come as a disappointment to Foster and Rogers, whose practices continue to work on the designs but have been battling to preserve their artistic merit against bureaucratic meddling and infighting.

If the Port Authority’s reduced version goes ahead it would leave gaps on the site.

The main tower, which is being directly constructed by the authority, would be preserved, as would the fourth tower, a 64-storey design by the Japanese architect Fumihiko Maki and the smallest of all the structures, which is already being built by Silverstein.

The authority’s decision to rein back ambitions at Ground Zero follows advice from property experts that, given the state of the economy, there might not be sufficient commercial demand for office space in downtown New York for at least another 20 years.

Towers two, three and four — all under Silverstein’s remit — would add 700,000 square metres of commercial space to the area.

The consultants Cushman & Wakefield concluded that the property market could not sustain that demand.

The Foster tower would not be fully let to companies until 2026 and the Rogers one until 2037, the company said in a report.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2009 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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