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join the discussion: What do you think of the battle over the Freedom Tower and its final design?  Is it a fitting choice to partially replace the World Trade Center towers destroyed on 9/11?


Libeskind's design evokes a building I look at every day, the Transamerica Building in San Francisco. Why would it be necessary to mirror the Statue of Liberty? That seems superfluous - Liberty survived 9/11/2001 and Freedom is not just a synonym of Liberty - its a much expanded concept reflected in that name.

The Child's team's design was better in every dimension. There will never be agreement on the design of this tower, but a much taller (50% than the WTC) and grander building is the long term legacy that New York deserves. The pure granstanding political effort of Pataki messed this up in the end. Yes, Liebskind has the overall site design, but the biggest (and now the only significant if the money runs out) building of the site is nowhere close to what it could be.

Mark Gurvis
Sausalito, California


Sacred Ground was an excellent documentary. This should be shown in every architecture or planning program in graduate schools throughout the world. The most important contribution of the Sacred Ground has less to do about the WTC controversy; and says more about the anatomy of power.

I agree with the viewers who said all failed on this project team. Unfortunately there did not seem to be an appreciation of how to build as a grieving and hopeful community. The power mongrels who led the project designed without an ear to the community's grief or hope. Neither of the two architects were really fit for the job. ... The architects lack of capacity to work together demonstrated their acting of their own will for power rather than designing on behalf of a grieving community. The ground will always be sacred for what happened there on 9/11, but the buildings that fell and the buildings that rise are symbols of power and the corruption of power. It is ironic that another corporate warehouse is being built when the neighborhood needs residential property. What was left after 9/11 was the community. The community's needs were not heard and so we continue to build concrete walls of power rather than listening communities of hope.

Joseph Duggan
Cambridge, MA


Sacred Ground was an excellent overview of conflicting design theories and public vs. private control over planning. Should architecture be symbolic and reveal a sense of place or history, or should buildings only be revealed as functional and maximum leasable/rentable space? Should the public have input on the built environment, or should developers retain unconditional private property rights and be able to build box-like oversized structures that detrimentally affect the aesthetics of place? In this particular case I can only side with architect Libeskind and his American experience. His meaningful master plan won the competition for good reason, because it addressed emotions of freedom felt by many citizens. Libeskind's design had a connection to the now sacred ground. The politicians/board failed miserably as they worked toward a compromise with the transient developer, rather than emphasizing the public ownership of the site, both legally and metaphorically. A ninety-nine year lease and economic funtionalism should not be the final or main determinate for designing a building on sacred ground. As an additional consideration, it should not be forgotten that the World Trade Center was targeted twice because of it symbolism of wealth and power. Building another similar structure, but taller, feels greatly at odds with the loss of life on September 11, 2001.

Nicolee Bradbury
Inchelium, WA


We should have heard more from victims' families re the WTC sacred ground and "Greedom" Tower...

Frank Barbetta
Little Falls, NJ


The dueling perspectives over control of the WTC redevelopment project failed to be properly represented in Frontline's report. Rather than exploring the legal obligations of leaseholder Silverstein, a short clip was shown where he arrogantly claimed control of the project. The show went on to cast the Libeskinds as the victims, fighting against the tyranny of Silverstein and SOM. In fact, the real culprit in this debacle is Governor Pataki, who had no right to exert control over a project whose rightful ownership had been leased by the Port Authority to Silverstein. Frontline showed weak platitudes from Pataki, perhaps because the politician now realizes that this project really isn't about making a statement to the world on behalf of America, but about what New York has always been about: making money, and making money from real estate. While I agree that Silverstein could allow a greater artistic aesthetic in the redevelopment of his lease, it should be affirmed that the Port Authority sold their conrol to Silverstein in a purely profit-centered contract laid bare by the atrocity of 9/11.

Tim Laitinen
Arlington, Texas


The longer I watched, the more I detested everyone involved except Eddie Hayes. Liebeskind especially came off as an egomaniacal little twerp, protected from reality by his petulant, whining wife -- and a very good lawyer who focussed on his duty to his most unattractive client.

The unanswered question, of course, is what we are going to do when the next iconic buildings are blown up by terrorists. I remember London in the 1950's, where piles of rubble remained on bombsites for years. We are at war, and our blitz has only begun. Every replacement building cannot be a monument for those who died. We need to start thinking about this now.

Marshall Keys
Nantucket, MA


Many forget that the twin towers were themselves considered an eyesore until embraced in post "Sleepless in Seattle" era as defining the New York skyline. The architect (Childs) can and should do much better job to incorporate a significant slant toward the spire in the design to fit in better with Liebeskind's original ascending spiral master plan before further revisions are no longer possible. With that said, each building necessarily stands on its own merits. The "freedom" tower does not fit cleanly into a themed skyline. It does not have to. It should be free to make its own statement. The Statue of Liberty is a fine inspiration but it exists quite nicely as a monument in the harbor. A twisted tall box is certainly more appealing than the two utilitarian tall boxes it replaced. Ultimately, the tower needs to give everyone what they want: A building to mark the aspirations of a city, state and nation, memorializing the memory and dreams of the public while providing safe profitable space for tenants. The job is not done until the camel is actually built from the remnants of the horse.

Arthur Liberty
Malibu, California


I wish that these two architects would work together and rebuild the same exact two towers. I'm sorry we are more obsessed with making money than trying to heal everyone with some kind love for one another. To rebuild the World Trade City exactly the way it was is a sign of resilience and strength and humanity. I think it would give our country a positive sense of hope. It'll take time to heal but I think building the two towers back up again would give us back our pride. According to Koch they still have the exact blueprints to build the towers.

Joe Pajcsics
San Diego, CA


I find it apalling that two grown men, supposedly intelligent professionals, could be so closed-minded, egotistical and downright childish about something as important as the Freedom Tower design. What is built on that site will not just impact New York City, it will impact the entire nation. Childs' attitude is especially unbelievable. Why have an international design contest if the developer's architect is going to do it his way no matter what the people think. Why weren't the proposed designs submitted to the people of New York to vote on? Had they been, I'm sure something more appealing would have been chosen and New Yorkers would have been happier with the ultimate design. Moreover, having a say in what replaces the World Trade Center buildings could help bring New York citizens some closure and healing. This tower should not be about feeding egos, it should be about healing, and an eyesore (which is what I consider the final design) certainly won't achieve that end. I hope the people involved in this project will have the good sense and the maturity to scrap that awful design, put aside their egos and do something significant.

Sherrah Buffington
Dallas, TX


Unfortunately, Frontline has a tendency to use the tricks of camera angles, lighting and editing to tell its story.

For example, look at how Childs and Libeskind are introduced: Childs criticizing Libeskind's limitations with the camera looking up at him with light reflecting off his forehead; Libeskind explains his vision in a lightly reverberated voice-over while he stands looking profound at Ground Zero with the camera panning around him. Is this how they asked to be introduced? Of course not--it's the purposeful editing of Frontline producers.

Another example: Child's firm is introduced as a "corporate" architecture firm. But what does that mean? That they have actual experience designing skyscrapers--not just the outside, but what holds them up and makes them work too? In context the meaning is clear: they are sellouts, compared to Libeskind.

This approach is simultaneously lazy and dishonest. But if you pay attention, it also gives you a clear view of Frontline's bias.

The story is also not very complete. The developer is portrayed as the villain robbing the public of a site they "own." But then again, he's the one who has to pay the lease to the port authority. If it belongs to the public, maybe the public should make the lease payments. But then Frontline would be doing a story on a government bailout for a rich developer.

Libeskind and his wife are given the chance to comment on Child's design and working process, which they use in part for some fairly vituperative personal attacks. Childs never gets a chance to respond to any of this, or even to explain his own work.

We know what Paul Goldberger thinks, and it is more or less his take on the story that gets told here. Is he the only architecture critic with something intelligent to say on this issue?

My own take on the whole design issue is that the original world trade center buildings should have been rebuilt exactly as they were on 9/10. Anything else will just be an eternal reminder of the terrorists' victory.

John Smith
New York, NY


Yes, the current design is a compromise, but is it really that awful? St. Paul's cathedral in London as built is very much a compromise. "If only...", I sigh every time I look at the model of Wren's original design. But the cathedral as built remains a glorious centerpiece of London. I am a big fan of Liebeskind's original design. I like the addition of Child's twist, but I'm glad Liebeskind stuck to his guns and insisted on the spire. I'd like to see a little more slant and spire in the design, and future building designs try to incoporate the tower into a version of Liebeskind's original ascending spiral. The current compromised design of the tower is hardly an eyesore (unlike that thing that now towers over Taipei). It is graceful and could be a very stirring focus for the downtown skyline. This compromise is far superior to those 2 shoeboxes with a fishing rod that stood there before.

F. Douglas Blanchard
New York, New York


Just as there was nobody to "connect the dots" before the tragedy, and thus prevent it, there is now nobody to "connect the dots" to take advantage of the funds offered by the Federal administration, which promised to turn lower Manhattan into a "transportation hub".

The Path trains from Newark which run above Jersey Transit could easily be continued to the Newark Airport station, and instead of "dead ending" in lower Manhattan, could be extended to Brooklyn and continue on what is now the LIRR to Jamaica and connect to JFK Airport. There is available underused tunnel trackage to Brooklyn on the IND A & F lines for this purpose. Provision should also be made to connect the Path to the planned 2nd Avenue subway, and to tracks of the 63rd Street tunnel that are now not used at all.

All just a question of "connecting the dots" instead of the inefficient system of "dead end" terminals.

Coleman Lassen
New York City, NY


I have watched Frontline for many years, but was astounded at how you managed to portray a total misrepresentation of the rebuilding process at ground zero on your program 'Sacred Ground'. David Childs is not the cuplrit here, as he was the only one who had enough power to overule Daniel Libeskind's horrible design. As a 9/11 survivor, I was very engaged in the so called 'public process' to select a design for ground zero through the LMDC's 'Listening to the City'. Needless to say, they listened to no one but Governor Pataki, who was the only person that seemed to like the frightening Libeskind design. Daniel Libeskind's design has lost in every public opinion poll that has ever been taken on this matter, yet elements of his 'shard of broken glass' design apparently will be incorporated into David Child's already ugly proposal. There were two points that I did agreed with in the program; the people who lost friends or loved ones in the disaster are lost in the middle of this (the footprints should be preserved), and the people of New York City and the entire country will stuck with a building that is mediocre at best (the twin towers should be rebuilt as the were, but adjacent to where they were!!!) We do not need anyting to evoke the Stature of Liberty, as we have the real thing in the middle of the harbor. We do not want a 70 story building with a hat on it and some windmills. The people of this city and the country at large overwhelmingly wish to have the twin towers rebuild as they were, but safer. The only problem is, our soon to be ex-governor never had the resolve to hear us.

Arthur Cognato
Brooklyn, New York


What a horrible compromise. It's a shame to see a good design stuck with an unglamorous stick on top of it solely for political purposes. Libeskind acted like a spoiled child when his initial design didn't become the final design.

Childs worked for months on improving a design -- Libeskind sat back and whined. Childs implemented a twisting design to capture the elegance of the Statue of Liberty -- Libeskind whined about the spire. Childs worked to improve the technical aspects of the structure and improve its functionality -- Libeskind whined about 1776 feet.

The world would be better off with more progressive engineers and fewer whiners that hold you back. Pataki and his cronies should be ashamed for forcing the "dumbing down" of what could have been a world-class structure. Unfortunately, it'll be the people of New York and the USA who will suffer the ultimate embarrassment.

Aaron Sakovich
Huntsville, AL


While there seems to be much more to the story, and who can say if one architect was more willing to interview than another, it is a tragedy in its own right that such an important project was not allowed to truly reach its potential because it was buried under issues that had nothing to do with itself. Over 3,000 dead. They deserve respect.

rob branco


Frontline did a fabulous job in presenting the reality of the "collaboration". I especially appreciated the stark difference you depicted between power hungry men and those who lost loved ones on 9/11. Why must it come down to settling on a design that satisfies those with the money? What a sad commentary on some that are supposed to be representing the people who pay their salaries, yet cannot look past their own interests. I loved Libeskind's design without the twisted towers.

Joanne Gallagher



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posted sept. 7, 2004

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