Published  25/09/2003

Manhattan take two

Daniel Libeskind's experiences of Ground Zero since his victory in the competition to redevelop the site earlier this year have shown one thing at least: that none of his competitors could have taken it all the way he has done. And it does look as though the Libeskind scheme will survive the in-fighting in some form.

But it should not be forgotten that the owner of the lease, Larry Silverstein, is himself embattled by bankers and insurers, and by the bereaved families. Libeskind's centrepiece, The Freedom Tower, at 1,776 feet, has itself become contentious. Silverstein proposes to hive off much of the design work to veteran New York designers, Skidmore Owings and Merrill. As Libeskind himself recently said, 'You have to represent what you believe in, and you have to remember that this design was selected … not in a boardroom by some elite backroom dealers. It was done in a transparent process with all the citizens of New York and 50 million people voting on the Internet. My responsibility is to that great constituency'. So, what happens to the actual remnant of the site? How much closer can the Freedom Tower be moved to the Subway? Can the idea of some of the families for a reflecting pool in the footprint of the towers be incorporated? What other vital ingredients, conceived for the site, will survive? Apart from office and retail space, will it be a cultural nexus, a memorial, a transit hub? Here it is Libeskind's rare talent, a genie of the modern city, which is likely, in the end, to deliver an, as yet, unrealised recombination of all the required ingredients, but with that unique flash of intuition and brilliance which only he can supply. All this against a backdrop of a New York recession now officially in its tenth quarter. While London's Blitz spirit may be a well-worn comparison, it is, nevertheless, apt for New Yorkers at this time.

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