Part of the U.S. triumph over its attackers should be the swift rebuilding of the site where the massacre occurred, constructing something even prouder and more splendid than the vanished Twin Towers. City Journal has asked the architectural firm of Franck Lohsen McCrery of Washington and New York, in collaboration with the Scottish monumental sculptor Alexander Stoddart, to imagine what the rebuilt site could look like.
The plan, which tries to correct the errors of the original World Trade Center project, has three key elements. First, it rejoins the site to the city's street grid, inviting pedestrians into the area and making possible a vibrant urban street life. Second, instead of two oppressively bulky towers, the plan allows for ten or a dozen smaller skyscrapers, adding up to significantly more space than the World Trade Center, perhaps 50 percent more. The new tall buildings are composed to become the culmination of, rather than the exception to, the downtown skyline. The old WTC made the island look smaller: these massed skyscrapers will make it look bigger and complement the magnificent downtown buildings around them. These towers can house offices and apartments, as market demand dictates, and they can have shops and restaurants—even theaters and museums—at street level, enlivening the 24-hour public life of the neighborhood. Third, a dignified and urbane memorial square, with monuments of the highest quality, anchors the area.
The massed pinnacles of the new skyline, seen here from New Jersey, augment the glamour of skyscraper Manhattan. (Alexander Stoddart)
The heart of the new development is a two-block square, left, with a memorial to the victims of the September 11 attack to the north and statues commemorating the policemen, firefighters, and emergency workers who died trying to rescue them to the south. Fulton Street and Cortlandt Street bound the square to the north and south; West Broadway, extended from the north, and Washington Street, extended from the south, form the eastern and western boundaries. (Franck Lohsen McCrery)
The original World Trade Center, on its raised, 20-acre plaza, as seen below left, formed an inhospitable barrier downtown. The new plan, at below right, aims to bind Battery Park City (west of the WTC site) to the financial district by extending Cortlandt, Dey, and Fulton Streets right up to it, by extending Little West Street northward directly in front of it, and by turning West Street from a highway into a pedestrian-friendly boulevard, with the West Side Highway recessed below. New buildings line the west edge of West Street; a new public square on West Street marks the gateway to the financial district. (Franck Lohsen McCrery)
By contrast with the Twin Towers, withdrawn from the street on their bleak plaza, below left, the new plan, below right, offers a lively urban mix of streets and squares, with 12 new city blocks filling the site of the World Trade Center, centered on a two-block memorial square, perhaps named Liberty Square. At its southern edge sits the new Liberty Station, from which one disembarks from the MetroNorth train and emerges into the heart of the financial district. The station’s modest height admits generous amounts of sunlight to the square. At the head of the square, behind the great memorial monument, rises One Liberty Square, the tallest of the planned buildings. (Franck Lohsen McCrery)
The new square, below left and right, occupies the heart of the former WTC plaza. It interrupts Dey Street in order to encompass two city blocks, and two great arches span Dey Street to mark the ceremonial entrance to the square on either side. Recessed three broad steps below street level is a grass lawn—which perhaps, on the model of Bryant Park, might attract crowds bringing their lunches from takeout shops on the perimeter. At the square’s southern edge are placed heroic statuary monuments to New York’s heroes: firefighters and policemen; to the north is the pairing of Memory and History, thrice life-size, illuminating and recording the dead. (Franck Lohsen McCrery)