Lower Manhattan Rises

Event: Lower Manhattan Rising: Looking Toward 9/11/2021
Location: Center for Architecture, 09.08.11
Keynote: Robert Ivy, FAIA — EVP/Chief Executive Officer, AIA
Speakers: The New 24-Hour Community: Residential/Culture/Retail: Julie Menin — Chair, Community Board 1, Lower Manhattan; Morgan von Prelle Pecelli — Director of Development, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council; Robin Abrams, AIA — Executive VP, The Lansco Corporation; John Bayles — Editor, Downtown Express (moderator)
Lower Manhattan Real Estate: Downtown Economy 2021: Bob Burchell — Director, Center For Urban Policy Research, Rutgers University; John E. Zuccotti, Hon. AIANY — Co-Chairman of the Board, Brookfield Properties Corporation; Timur Galen — Managing Director, Goldman Sachs; Elizabeth Berger — President, Alliance for Downtown New York; Rick Bell, FAIA — Executive Director, AIANY (moderator)
Architectural Excellence: Building Design for a New Future: Bruce Fowle, FAIA, LEED AP — Senior Partner, FXFOWLE; Daniel Libeskind, AIA — Principal, Studio Daniel Libeskind; Michael Arad, AIA — Partner, Handel Architects; Craig Dykers, AIA, MNAL — Snøhetta; Paul Goldberger, Hon. AIA — Architecture Critic, The New Yorker (moderator)
Urban Design: Transportation, Security and the Public Realm: Alex Garvin, Hon. AIANY — President/CEO, AGA Public Realm Strategists; Donna Walcavage, FASLA, LEED AP — Principal, AECOM Design + Planning; Sam Schwartz, PE — Principal, Sam Schwartz Engineering; Robert Ducibella — Principal, Ducibella Venter & Santore; Cathleen McGuigan, Editor-in-Chief, Architectural Record (moderator)
Summary/Conclusions: Looking to 2021: Ernest W. Hutton, Jr., Assoc. AIA, FAICP — Hutton Associates/Planning Interaction; Alex Garvin, Hon. AIANY — President/CEO, AGA Public Realm Strategists; Marilyn Jordan Taylor, FAIA — Dean, University of Pennsylvania School of Design
Organizers: AIANY; Baruch College; NY Chapter of ASLA; New York New Visions; NY Metro Chapter of the APA

World Trade Center.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey

In a recent conference on Lower Manhattan’s past and future, Daniel Libeskind, AIA, recalled the high expectations he faced when he first set out to design the master plan for the rebuilding of the World Trade Center site. In a sense, his job wasn’t just to craft the vision for one 16-acre site. Many hoped that the rebuilding would serve as a reaffirmation of life and hope, helping Lower Manhattan and the whole city recover from the wider economic and emotional impact of the terrorist attacks. His design sought to address the question, “How do you take the memory [of 9/11] and create a foundation for a resurgence of the city?” he said. How can the memory of “devastation, of the perishing of so many lives” become “a foundation for something for the future?”

The rebuilding of the WTC is still a work in progress, but with the recent 10th anniversary of the attacks and the opening of the 9/11 Memorial, the eyes of the city and the wider world have once again fallen on Lower Manhattan. In the conference, a multidisciplinary group of experts shared their perspectives on the area’s progress over the past decade and their — mostly rosy — predictions for how its built environment and culture will evolve over the next 10 years.

Bruce Fowle, FAIA, LEED AP, who helped found New York New Visions (NYNV) after 9/11 to promote rebuilding and revitalization in Lower Manhattan, recalled that NYNV initially thought the rebuilding of the WTC would need to serve as the catalyst for the rejuvenation of the surrounding area. In reality, despite the slow progress on WTC construction, Lower Manhattan has made huge steps in its recovery over the past decade, in part thanks to the efforts of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, he said.

Jack Nyman, executive director of Baruch College’s Steven L. Newman Real Estate Institute, observed that the area is still “an epicenter of the financial world, but Lower Manhattan’s rebirth is taking us so much further. We’re [transforming] into a 24/7 mixed-use environment.” Julie Menin, chair of Community Board 1, emphasized the district’s skyrocketing residential population and accompanying proliferation of new schools, community centers, playgrounds, and parks. The local population has nearly doubled in the past decade, and she believes it may well double again in the next 10 years. Other speakers commented on the increasing diversity of the area’s businesses; the influx of hotels, shops, and restaurants; and the rise in arts programming.

The already bustling tourist industry is getting a big boost from the opening of the 9/11 Memorial. Five to seven million people will come to visit the memorial each year, according to Menin. Some welcomed the news: the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council sees the area’s new visitors as an opportunity for boosting its arts offerings, said Morgan von Prelle Pecelli, the organization’s director of development. However, some speakers worried about the congestion the tourists will bring and wondered if the transportation system is ready for it. “If we’re going to have millions of tourists… wouldn’t it be good if, at least from one airport, we could have a direct train ride into the city?” said John E. Zuccotti, Hon. AIANY, co-chairman of the board of Brookfield Properties.

Michael Arad, AIA, who designed the memorial with landscape architects Peter Walker and Partners, said that over time he expects the memorial plaza to become a center of activity for locals, too, not just visitors from afar. Though his initial design for the pools and plaza was stark, at the urging of the design jury, rows of trees have been added to make the space greener and more welcoming. The goal was to create a place equally well suited for visitors looking for solace and remembrance, and local workers and families looking for relaxation and recreation. “I always wanted to think about life coming back to the site,” he said. “Public spaces are resilient and powerful.”