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Culture

Berlin Architect to Build Twin Towers Replacement

It's official: Berlin-based architect Daniel Libeskind has won an international competition to fill the vacuum where the World Trade Center towers once stood.

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A sunken pit, the former foundation of the two towers, is the anchor of Libeskind's plan

A soaring spire featuring a multi-story memorial garden has been selected to fill the void left on the New York City skyline by the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

After months of debate, New York officials chose the structure by Berlin-based architect Daniel Libeskind Wednesday night and made the official announcement on Thursday. Libeskind's design for the 16- acre-site edged out the other finalists, a New York-based team led by architects Rafael Vinoly and Frederic Schwartz.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a key member of the agency established to oversee redevelopment and a memorial, said the design should "poignantly recall for all time what happened on 9/11, to remake it as a center of global culture and commerce and to integrate it into a revitalized lower Manhattan.

"With the selection of the team of Studio Daniel Libeskind
we have accomplished all three objectives and in doing so we
take a significant step toward fulfilling our vision," he said at a news conference announcing the decision.

Libeskind's design, titled "Memory Foundations" features a tower 1,776-foot (541 meters) high that ends in a multi-story garden. The tower, which would be among the world's tallest structures, is surrounded by a series of interconnecting public pathways and spaces, including a square perfectly positioned to fill with light between 8:46 a.m. when the first plane hit and 10:28 a.m. when the second tower fell, every Sept. 11.

Daniel Libeskind

American architect Daniel Libeskind smiles during a tour for journalists inside the new Jewish Museum in Berlin Friday, January 22, 1999. The museum designed as a destroyed star of David will be opened this weekend. (AP Photo/Hans Edinger)

The $330 million design also takes visitors 70 feet below street level to the foundations that survived the impact of the hijacked airliners and towers' collapse.

"The walls are not just the footprint of the towers, which is something very abstract. It's a kind of sacred and spiritual area," Libeskind said in an interview with DW-WORLD two weeks ago. "They are really the witnesses to the power of democracy -- they withstood the attack. These indelible footprints really capture the dignity and profundity of the event."

Much debate still to come

How exactly the final product will match up to the Polish émigré architect's blueprint is unclear. What should follow the World Trade Center Towers has been a hotly debated topic for more than a year. The plot of land is owned by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, but New York developer Larry Silverstein owns the lease to build offices and commercial stores on the site.

"He's got a right to rebuild and an obligation to rebuild,"
Louis Tomson, president of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, which ran the selection process said of Silverstein. "The Port (Authority), which is his landlord, has the right to demand he rebuild and the obligation not to be unreasonable -- that's about all the rules there are."

Silverstein, who wouldn't comment Thursday, has said that he didn't like either the Libeskind or Vinoly designs. New York City officials said that the design will undergo some refinement as various civic groups and relatives of victims of the attacks jostle for a say in what fills the empty space. Building is only expected to begin in 2005, at the earliest.

Libeskind's big break

Architekturwettbewerb in New York, World Trade Center, von Libeskind

This one of the proposed designs for the rebuilding of New York's World Trade Center, by Studio Daniel Libeskind, presented in New York Wednesday Dec. 18, 2002. Seven teams of architects from around the world presented their designs, beginning an intensive six weeks of review before a final plan is chosen to develop the 16-acre site and the surrounding neighborhood.

The selection is nevertheless a huge coup for Libeskind. The architect (photo) has won acclaim for his addition to the Jewish Museum in Berlin and his Imperial War Museum in Manchester, Great Britain.

The 57-year-old architect was born in postwar Poland and travelled to the United States with the intention of studying music. It was only in the early 1970s that he began to study architecture. "I arrived by ship to New York as a teenager, an immigrant, and like millions of others before me, my first sight was the Statue of Liberty and the amazing skyline of Manhattan," he wrote in the opening of a description of his design. "I have never forgotten that sight or what it stands for. This is what this project is all about."

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