Page N4.1 . 11 October 2006                     
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    Photo: Balthazar Korab

    Five Years Later

    by Kevin Matthews

    We bear witness this week both to an international tragedy and to the largest architectural disaster in U.S. history. Five years ago, two of our largest buildings were utterly and unexpectedly destroyed, killing thousands of people who were unable to escape them. On this anniversary, as people around the world can still feel the ground reverberating, let us pause in remembrance.

    As serious controversy continues around the geopolitical and military implications of the attack on the twin towers, naive controversy swirls around the structural mechanisms of collapse. Confusion, unseemly power-brokering, and erratic steps seem also to characterize the reconstruction planning process.

    Still, the complex gears of that process have been turning, and designs for a set of new towers have just been unveiled. We present images of those designs, but will leave the critical appraisal they deserve for a later time.

    Another compact but important controversy turns around the sole architectural fragment of the two towers, a stepped and scarred wedge of concrete which has become known as the "Survivors Staircase." Listed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation among America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places" for 2006, it too would be demolished according to the latest reconstruction plans. The reasons to save the stairway are nothing but symbolism and memory which combined are surely the very essence of memorial.

    Another kind of human controversy twists through New York as well. On September 7, 2006, hundreds gathered at St. Paul's Chapel across the street from the World Trade Center site to demand the federal government stop ignoring the continuing health impacts from the World Trade Center disaster and clean-up process. Not only surviving firefighters, but also hundreds of residents of lower Manhattan are suffering and dying from respiratory ailments.

    For several weeks following the attack, toxic smoke, dust, and fumes filled the air. Yet federal officials declared the atmosphere safe to breathe. In the five years since the attack, citizens say they feel like under-reported "collateral damage." U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt has vowed to spend $75 million on September 11 health programs, but many wonder why this appropriate funding has taken so long.

    Except for the delayed health response, it is good that these things are taking time. Outside real emergency, big things usually do take time to do together, and to do well. What to make of the shattered ash and steel of the once-proud towers is immense: for New York, for the United States, and for our whole world. Let the controversies swirl, until we find a way from this great disaster to make a greater peace.

    Discuss this article in the Architecture Forum...

    Kevin Matthews is editor-in-chief of ArchitectureWeek

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    New vision for Lower Manhattan.
    Image: Richard Rogers Partnership, Team Macarie

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    Newly unveiled designs for the east side of the former World Trade Center site by Foster and Partners, Richard Rogers Partnership, and Fumihiko Maki.
    Image: dbox, courtesy Silverstein Properties

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    Projected World Trade Center site plan.
    Image: Foster and Partners Extra Large Image

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    Manhattan with proposed buildings.
    Image: dbox, courtesy Silverstein Properties Extra Large Image

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    Vesey Street Staircase, a surviving but endangered remnant of the World Trade Center.
    Photo: Robert Kornfeld, Jr.

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    Satellite image of the World Trade Center disaster site on September 15, 2001.


    Click on thumbnail images
    to view full-size pictures.

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    On Tuesday, September 11, 2001, the world was shocked by horrific attacks on the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York and by the related attack on the Pentagon in Washington D.C. ArchitectureWeek joins the world in profound sympathy for the victims and their families. Published 2001.0912   ...

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    In our second week since the terrorist disaster in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania, emergency crews continue to work on rescue and recovery, families, friends, a nation, and the world mourn their losses, and most of the U.S. struggles toward normalcy in our daily lives. Published 2001.0919   ...

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    It has been just over two weeks since terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center led to the collapse of the landmark twin towers. To varying degrees, and for those who can manage it, the routines of Manhattan have restarted. The city, in its myriad ways, is going about the work of going back to work. Published 2001.0926   ...

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    Behind the slowly shrinking heaps of rubble in lower Manhattan and Arlington, Virginia, a phalanx of forensic engineers, supported by a variety of research grants, is working against the flow of debris as it is carted off to recycling sites and landfills, searching for clues about how three of the largest U.S. buildings were mortally wounded. B Published 2001.1017   ...

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    It's been said that the World Trade Center Towers, tragically destroyed on Spetember 11, 2001, were designed to withstand the impact of a speeding jet airplane. Why would architects and engineers in the 1960s take such an unlikely event into account for their design requirements? Published 2001.1031   ...

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    Like hundreds of other volunteers, I spent most of the week of September 11 at the site of the former World Trade Center, helping with rescue efforts as best I could. My particular background lent insight to some of the problems we faced. Published 2001.1107   ...

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    On a November, 2001 weekend, before the first frost, hundreds of New Yorkers planted thousands of daffodils in parks around the city. Next spring, the blossoming bulbs will provide a memorial to the hard season the city has endured, and to the people we have lost. Published 2001.1114   ...

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    What should be done with the World Trade Center site in New York? Should it become a memorial park? Or should new buildings go up, and if so, should they rise as high as their predecessors? Or higher? When you ask these questions of over 100 internationally known architects, you can expect to receive a broad range of answers. Published 2002.0306   ...

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    After seven months of wide speculation about the causes of New York's World Trade Center collapses on B September 11, 2001, a report has been issued based on physical evidence and a thorough engineering analysis. Published 2002.0515   ...

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    Questions about the next stage in determining the future of the World Trade Center site in New York City were apparently resolved on May 22, 2002 when the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC) announced that it had chosen the team of Beyer Blinder Belle and Parsons Brinckerhoff to develop a master plan for reconstruction. Beyer Blinder Belle, best known for its restoration of Grand Central Terminal, was one of 15 architecture and design firms that offered bids to the LMDC and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Published 2002.0529   ...

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    At a public meeting on July 16, 2002, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC) unveiled six concept plans for redeveloping the site of the World Trade Center. This first phase of what seems headed toward a lengthy, contentious process was prepared by the New York architecture firm of Beyer Blinder Belle, Architects & Planners. All six proposed options include a permanent memorial, public open space, buildings to replace the destroyed office, hotel, and retail space, a regional transportation hub, and cultural and civic institutions. Published 2002.0807   ...

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    As the first anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center site approached, the air in New York was strangely expectant. Hot, balmy days recalled the weather of September 2001, as if inaugurating a season of remembrance. Published 2002.0911   ...

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    On December 18, 2002, citizens and designers of the United States and the world got a glimpse of some new ideas on how the site of New York's World Trade Center could be transformed over the coming decade. On December 18, 2002, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation released a new set of design proposals submitted by some of the world's most talented architects. Perhaps skittish after the poor reception given the last round of proposals, the LMDC simultaneously also launched a campaign to solicit public comment. Published 2003.0101   ...

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    On February 27, 2003, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC) selected Studio Daniel Libeskind and their widely-applauded design to guide the reconstruction of the World Trade Center site in New York. The "Memory Foundations" submission by the Polish-American architect emerged from a competition lasting many months, involving some of the best known architects in the world, and inspiring a lively, often rancorous, public debate. Although the debating is far from over, there now appears to be a framework from which to develop a long-term reconstruction plan. Published 2003.0305

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    When architect Daniel Libeskind was chosen in February 2003 to redesign New York's World Trade Center site, it appeared to be an irrevocable decision about the fate of "Ground Zero." But controversies have persisted, and what finally gets built may be very different from Libeskind's original design vision. Published 2003.0827   ...

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    Like other contemporary architects, Daniel Libeskind designer of the new World Trade Center and his firm use computer-aided modeling tools extensively during schematic design. But the firm also relies on physical models. As the new World Trade Center design develops in the public limelight, a look back at its schematic beginnings reveals a process in which physical and computer models evolved in parallel. Published 2004.0303   ...



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