World Architecture Day 2014
 
 
 
 
Out of the ashes…
Michael Hammond

Emotion, controversy, acrimony and tension have all been components of the WTC reconstruction. However, a band of the world’s most prolific architects are now working side by side on the 10th floor of 7 World Trade Centre in an effort to meet a “punishing schedule.” Elsewhere in the world, the firms, Rogers, Fosters and Maki are doing battle to win projects but in this room, they are one team.
One name runs through the project like a thread, interwoven into every aspect of the reconstruction. Larry Silverstein. It’s been a rough ride. Silverstein had bought the towers in July 2001 for $3.2bn and six

 

weeks later they were rubble. The task to bring together the disparate parties in the emotionally charged atmosphere has been a tremendous achievement. Many said he couldn’t do it. It’s a real life epic.
Having these huge sums of money at stake has inevitably resulted in some of New York’s most powerful organisations wrangling for a piece of the action. Battles have been fought and won on so many fronts, not least being Silverstein’s wangle with the insurers over whether the attacks were classified as one, resulting in a payout of $3.5bn or two with a payout of $7.0bn. Six years of litigation resulted in a payout of $4.6bn. Then there was Mayor Bloomberg, who wanted to take the project from Silverstein, Pataki, New York’s Governor who controlled the port authority and owned the land, Daniel Libeskind who won the design competition and was ousted by Silverstein in favour of David Childs of SOM. Bloomberg’s second term in office started with a renewed attack on Silverstein’s control and after months of “negotiations” the rights to the Freedom Tower were reluctantly handed over leaving the developer with the three commercial towers.
Now, six years on from 911, the shift of focus has moved from shock and horror through grief then legal acrimony and finally towards the future and hope.

 

Reports are coming in of an historic esprit de corps which has developed in the room, aptly nicknamed Silverstein’s “War Room”. Even Daniel Libeskind has mellowed and admitted in an interview recently, “The contentious process resulted in a good plan,” and even more magnanimously, “I have to give him (Silverstein) credit, he actually went forward with it, and it’s very very very impressive. He commissioned very good architects, and each one of the buildings has its own identity. They’re doing something very special down there.”

Visit the war room and listen to WAN’s exclusive interview with Richard Paul of Rogers Stirk Harbour.

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