Two More Stars on Ground Zero Team

Just days after beginning construction on the World Trade Center Freedom Tower, Developer Larry Silverstein announced today that architects Richard Rogers and Fumihiko Maki will each design high-rise office towers at the World Trade Center site.

The architects will join an impressive list of architectural stars working at the complex. They include site master planner Daniel Libeskind, FAIA; David Childs, FAIA of SOM, who is designing the Freedom Tower, and Santiago Calatrava, FAIA, the architect for the transit station. They are joined by Frank Gehry, FAIA who has taken on the design of the Performing Arts Center; the Norwegian firm Snøhetta, which is designing the visitors' center; and Michael Arad, who with Peter Walker, is in charge of the World Trade Center Memorial and Museum. Norman Foster is the designer of Tower 2, on the northeast corner of the site. Many have wondered how all these architects' designs will interact, since Libeskind's commercial design guidelines for the site have still not been officially released.

Libeskind's master plan calls for five office towers. Taken together, these would replace the 10 million square feet of office space lost when the Twin Towers were destroyed. Silverstein had expressed an intention to hire Foster and Maki back in 2003, but Rogers is a new addition to the group. Silverstein's spokesman, Bud Perrone, says that the 2003 announcement was "less official" than the current one.

"Beginning with 7 World Trade Center, I made a commitment to hire the best architectural talent in the world and apply the highest standards of design to build these office towers," says Mr. Silverstein, who also said that the Freedom Tower would be completed by 2012.

Rogers will design Tower 3 on the eastern side of the site, which will contain 2 million square feet of office space. In New York, Rogers is also designing an addition to the Javits Center, an East River waterfront park in Manhattan, and new towers for Silvercup Studios in Queens. Next door, 1993 Pritzker Prize winner Maki will design Tower 4 for the site's southeast corner. It will contain 1.8 million square feet of office space.

French Architect Jean Nouvel was originally hired by Silverstein to design Tower 5, to the south of the site. But a recently-settled contract dispute between Silverstein and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey gave the PA control over who the tower's designer will be.

The astonishing amount of star power at Ground Zero has prompted many to call for the release of Libeskind's design guidelines for the site, which they say could help the architects' disparate styles fit together. The guidelines, which have been distributed in draft form, have yet to be officially released, and the delay has angered many local designers, planners, and activists.

"To have come up with a master plan selection and not go through with it seems like a real undermining of public trust," says Frank Sanchis, senior vice president at the Municipal Art Society, a nonprofit group that advocates innovative urban design in New York. "There needs to be a common thread there," says Sanchis. "If it just winds up being a collection of random towers that will be a shame."

Perrone says that Silverstein's architects will follow the draft guidelines, and that Libeskind's original concept, an ascending spiral of buildings, will remain intact.

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