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  THEY'RE BIG. THEY'RE BAD. THEY'RE BUILDINGS! A COMPREHENSIVE LOOK AT ALL THE WORLD TRADE CENTER PROPOSALS  
   
   
 


Foster and Partners


 
 

Not to be a girly man here, but this building is frightening. It looks like it was put on this earth by Lucifer to destroy lesser buildings. It’s like the Incredible Hulk -- don’t make the Foster plan angry. Foster plan BASH!

Seriously. The poor little Empire State Building, once tall, once strong, once powerful, will look like the Herve Villachaize to Foster’s Ricardo Montalban. (It is difficult to resist the temptation to make a “De Plane! De Plane!” joke. Sorry.) Does Mr. Foster have, um, inferiority issues? The design is weirdly graceful, and the whole “kissing towers” thing has its appeal. But when was it decided that we needed two more huge buildings? (This covers some of the other plans as well.) In a New York City that’s suffering through a depression as is, how are they going to find tenants for a building that huge? Not to be morbid here, but would you want to work on the top floor of one of those buildings?

Not surprisingly, this plan has been the most popular in public opinion polls. We New Yorkers like it when those buildings go up real high. But still. The plan itself is rather flimsy and consists mostly of the above striking image, which inevitably made the covers of all the papers. It’s about as realistic a notion as a 2,000-feet tall statue of John Rocker. -- WL

 
 

Meier Eisenman Gwathmey Holl

 
 

Shadoe Stevens to block, please.

The infamous Tic-Tac-Toe plan is, essentially, five original World Trade Center buildings stacked next to one another, with little “bridges” in between that make them look like the pound sign on your touch-tone phone. It’s tough to decipher what the artistic intent of this was – because, of course, the original towers were such groundbreaking architecture – but this looks like half of a prison for Godzilla.

It’s debatable whether we need a plan that incorporates the original design anyway. Solving the problem by simply multiplying the number of WTC buildings is like George Steinbrenner trying to get his Yankees back into the World Series by buying more of the same overpriced lollygaggers ("Raul Mondesi, you have a telephone call at the front desk...") who got him in this pickle in the first place. It’s good money after bad, as they say.

Plus, it’s impossible not to think of an enormous Whoopi Goldberg head in that center square, and that’s more horrifying than anything Al Qaeda could ever pull off. -- WL

 
 

Peterson & Littenberg



 
 

This one was designed by a husband-and-wife team, and it shows; it looks like the bland, dull work of people who live in the suburbs and are long past the point of caring anymore. One almost expects Applebee’s and Staples to sponsor each tower.

The problem with this is the exact opposite of the United plan. This looks like it was designed in the ‘40s, but not in a cool retro way. Peterson and Littenberg were the only ones among the original team –- the ones Chuck Barris would have gonged -– to make this second round, but it seems more like a polite gesture on the part of, well, of whomever is in charge of this whole mess.

Yeah, uh … who IS in charge of this whole thing? Legitimate question. Is whoever is running the FOX network available? -- WL

 
 

Studio Libeskind



 
 

This is a perfect example of why the Foster plan has been unjustly embraced by the public. The Libeskind plan is everything everyone says they want in a memorial: Grand, beautiful, and focusing on the terrible events of that day rather than whether or not there’s enough commercial space.

Problem is, the Libeskind camp didn’t come up with a visual that adequately got across what the plan would look like, so people saw the obvious Foster shot and said, “Hey, thems big!” But Libeskind not only satisfies the desire for a huge tall building – the tower in this plan is actually taller, if not as intimidating, as Foster’s – but also puts the emphasis on the memorial more than anything else.

Libeskind designed the Jewish Museum in Berlin, and he can certainly do grief. The plan actually proposes keeping much of the site intact, including the “slurry wall” that holds back the Hudson River, the only part of the original World Trade Center still in existence. That’s where the memorial would be. In fact, the whole structure springs from the memorial while still providing that vital office space. But you probably couldn’t tell that, and if you haven’t had time to research it, you wouldn’t have any idea. The Libeskind plan most closely rivals the Oklahoma City Memorial in its scope, and, if you’ve seen that, you know this could be something beautiful. -- WL

 
 

Think



 
 

Out of all the ideas, the Think proposal, created by a design team led by Frederic Schwartz and Rafael Vinoly, best replicates the skyline as it looked on Sept. 10, 2001. The design is dominated by two massive Eiffel Tower looking versions of the World Trade Center towers, with much of the 16-acre site enclosed under a glass ceiling and framed in metal latticework.

Ultimately, Think's proposal uses the towers as the centerpiece of a site that functions as a memorial, gateway and commercial zone. A wild matrix of buildings and structures, some of them seeming to float in midair, will surround the towers, creating a space that is soaring, broad and useful. And with everything matrix-related expected to have a huge 2003, there's no wonder the proposal has emerged as a favorite.

Maybe that's because there's a little something for everyone in Think's plans. Relatives of 9/11 victims like the fact neither of the towers encroach on the footprint of the destroyed buildings. New Yorkers will like the fact the New York skyline will be restored as it was. And tourists won't have to load up all sorts of new New York-themed skyline crap because of it. -- EG

 
 

United Architects



 
 

This building looks like a math problem you can’t solve. Always a bad sign when critiquing a building: The word “helix” comes to mind.

Honestly, the design is sprawling and chaotic and modern, which is a fancier way of saying it looks like what results when the Sarlacc Pit belches up a starship its stomach didn’t agree with.

I’m also not sure how this building could conceivably work, office-space-wise. Can you imagine the unwieldy mailing addresses this place would cause?

Yes, yes, that’s Will Leitch at The Black Table. Please mail that to: “Will Leitch, Third Helix, Fifth Row, Seventy-Second Floor, Room 1341913. Oh, we don’t have a zip code yet. Sorry.” This building requires instructions from IKEA. -- WL

 
 

Skidmore, OwInGs & Merrill



 
 

The fine folks at Skidmore, Owings and Merrill were so enamored with their own plan for the World Trade Center site that they pulled out of the competition. Okay, so S.O.M. actually said they dropped out of the competition to focus the firm's efforts on rebuilding 7 World Trade Center. But that's like skipping in the Super Bowl so you can be fresh for the Pro Bowl the week after.

Maybe it's better that S.O.M. took their collective ball and went home. As it stood, or rather, leaned, the firm's plans for the site were to build nine massive, translucent buildings that zigged and zagged into the sky. On the 52nd floor of each building, S.O.M. would put a garden to soak up whatever sunshine sneaks through the huge complex of buildings. A big ol' train station would reside under the 16-acre site, to encourage visitors to see the buildings, which are clustered to so tightly it's more likely to inspire claustrophobia than anything else.

In the end, it doesn't matter. Because the firm pulled the plug on its proposal, fans of S.O.M. are S.O.L. -- shit out of luck. -- EG

 
 

Frank Gehry



 
 

In a New York Times Magazine interview from Jan. 5, Frank Gehry, arguably the greatest living American architect, explained that the $40,000 payment he would have received for offering his own World Trade Center proposal wasn't enough to get the creative juices flowing. Even though the WTC rebuild is a chance-of-a-lifetime opportunity for an architect to put a stamp on one of the world's largest cities, Gehry put his pimp hand down.

"I was invited to be on one of the teams, but I found it demeaning that the agency paid only $40,000 for all that work. I can understand why the kids did it, but why would people my age do it?" said Gehry. "When you're only paid $40,000, you're treated as if that is your worth."

The paltry paycheck wasn't enough to inspire Gehry to enter, but that didn't stop him from offering his own vague proposal for the site, which would include a park and loads of public areas, but no commercial space. "I have a fantasy of a space that is so magnificent it would engage the world," Gehry said. "Ar least five or six acres could consist of a covered space, a covered piece of grass. It could be an indoor park with a lake in it and a place where you could picnic. Imagine Central Park with a roof over it."

In the end, Gehry's proposal proves that when it comes to the WTC, you really do get what you pay for. -- EG

 
 

Antoni Gaudi



 
 

Unlike all the other design proposals, Antoni Gaudi's vision of the World Trade Center site was completed without him ever having viewed the buildings. This isn't because Gaudi is some kind of blind architectural genius, it's because he's dead.

Gaudi's plan, which will be entered in the LMDC's memorial competition, was created in 1908 for a New York hotel that was never built. Fans of his work, like the 330-foot Sagrada Familia church in Barcelona, have dusted off the old plans and reworked them into a proposal.

According to Gaudi's vision, the building would be a 1,181-foot skyscraper topped by a massive star that could hold a whopping 30 tourists at a time. The sides of the building, swathed in all the colors of rainbow with different types of tile and marble, would slope, creating a shape that looks a lot like a rocket ship.

A rainbow-colored rocket? How very gaudy, indeed. -- EG

 
 

Timothy "Speed" Levitch




 
 

Timothy "Speed" Levitch, a New York City tour guide and actor whose biggest achievement is playing himself in a handful of films, suggested the WTC site be converted into 16 acres of grassy plain. Instead of crowding the space with more buildings, streets and people, Levitch wants to let bison roam the newly fashioned urban plains. His proposal is at the heart of a short film called "Live From Shiva's Dancefloor," that was directed by Richard Linklater and debuted at the Sundance Film Festival.

"The bison are an indigenous American tribe that have been experiencing Sept. 11 for 400 years -- they know the suffering and understand the healing," Levitch said. "I feel New York City is a very silly place that takes itself too seriously and I think it would turn the place into more of a play date."

Apparently, all the relatives of 9/11 victims need to memorialize a terrorist attack is the chance to flee from undomesticated animals that weigh a full ton and can run up to 30 miles per hour. Don't worry, Levitch's unofficial proposal, hopefully offered in jest, would be shelved by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation because it doesn't include a train station, commercial office space or meet any of the design requirements. -- EG

 

 
 

*BT*