Daniel Libeskind: Architect at Ground Zero

From his Jewish Museum in Berlin to his proposal for the World Trade Center site, Daniel Libeskind designs buildings that reach out to history and humanity

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Libeskind says his design attempted to resolve two contradictory viewpoints. He wanted to mark the site, he says, as “a place of mourning, a place of sadness, where so many people were murdered and died.” At the same time, he felt the design should be “something that is outward, forward-looking, optimistic, exciting.”


His proposal would leave Ground Zero and the bedrock foundations of the TwinTowers uncovered as, he says, “sacred ground.” An elevated walkway would encircle the 70-foot-deep hole. Libeskind would also create two public spaces as memorials: the “Park of Heroes,” in honor of the more than 2,500 people who died there, and an unusual outdoor space called the “Wedge of Light.” To create this wedge of light, Libeskind would configure the buildings on the eastern side of the complex so that, on September 11 of every year, no shadows would fall on the area between 8:46 a.m., the moment when the first plane struck, and 10:28 a.m., when the second tower collapsed.


The main building of Libeskind’s creation would be a thin tower that would climb higher than the TwinTowers and would, in fact, become the tallest building in the world. “But what does that mean?” says Libeskind. “You can have the tallest building one day but find someone else has built a taller one the next. So I picked a height that has meaning.” He set it at 1776 feet. This tower would have 70 stories of offices, shops and cafés. But its spire—perhaps another 30 stories high—would house gardens. The tower would stand alongside a 70-story office building and connect to it with walkways.


Libeskind calls this iconic building the “Gardens of the World.” “Why gardens?” he asks in his proposal. “Because gardens are a constant affirmation of life.” For Libeskind, the tower rises triumphant from the terror of Ground Zero as the New York skyline rose before his 13-year-old eyes when he arrived by ship after his childhood in war-embittered Poland. The spire would be, he says, “an affirmation of the sky of New York, an affirmation of vitality in the face of danger, an affirmation of life in the aftermath of tragedy.” It would demonstrate, he says, “life victorious.”


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