For Once, a View from the Ground Up

Event: The World Trade Center Site: Designing the Public Realm
Location: Center for Architecture, 09.18.07
Speakers: Panel A: Program and Schedule: Steven Plate — Director, World Trade Center Construction, The Port Authority of NY and NJ; Joan Gerner, Assoc. AIA — Executive Vice President of Design Construction & Capital Planning, National September 11 Memorial & Museum; Janno Lieber — WTC Project Director, Silverstein Properties; Panel B: Planning and Design of the Public Realm: Joe Brown, FASLA — President/CEO, EDAW; Peter Walker, FASLA — Partner-in-Charge, Peter Walker and Partners Landscape Architects; Anne Lewison, AIA — Architect, Snøhetta; Respondents: Allen Swerdlowe, AIA — Chair, New York New Visions (NYNV) Site Committee; Ned McGuire — Chair, Civic Alliance, NYNV Memorial Committee
Moderators: Panel A: Rick Bell, FAIA — Executive Director, AIANY; Panel B: Ernest Hutton, Assoc. AIA, AICP — Co-Chair, NYNV
Organizer: New York New Visions

WTC Progress

Work is being done at Ground Zero.

Courtesy Joe Woolhead, www.panynj.gov

As designs crystallize at the World Trade Center site, people are wondering what Lower Manhattan will look like from the ground — not just from the bird’s-eye perspective seen in many published renderings. Speakers from city agencies and key designers recently provided a status report focusing on at-ground activity and the public realm.

Grade-level planning begins at the programming and scheduling stages. For example, to enhance a visitor’s experience of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, pedestrian planning is being considered while the design is at its preliminary phases, according to Joan Gerner, Assoc. AIA, executive vice president of design construction and capital planning. Using computer software, the team created a visualization of the Memorial’s pedestrian traffic patterns of visitors, residents, and workers. On a larger scale, the new towers will relate to each other and the surrounding neighborhoods because of the collaboration among site architects throughout the design process, not just after the designs have been solidified, explained Janno Lieber, WTC project director at Silverstein Properties.

A key factor when designing a building or memorial is how it will relate to the public realm; and every firm designing for the WTC site is approaching this challenge differently. When planning the overall site, urban designers from EDAW are looking to “totally reform the public realm of Lower Manhattan,” stated president/CEO Joe Brown, FASLA. From details (the design of street lights) to overarching principles (promoting civic activity and interaction), EDAW is carefully considering the shaping of the sites’ public spaces. Peter Walker, FASLA, partner-in-charge of Peter Walker and Partners Landscape Architects, designing the landscape of the World Trade Center Memorial, is attempting to re-imagine the relationship between secular and sacred spaces by integrating active and contemplative elements. Planted trees are intended to arch like cathedrals over busy paths, for example. A memorial pavilion, designed by Snøhetta, will glow at all hours and act as a beacon on the site.

The public desires Ground Zero to be wonderful, and built soon.