Ground Zero Master Plan / Studio Daniel Libeskind

WTC Site Night, Silverstein Properties, New York © Silverstein Properties

With last year’s opening of the 9/11 Memorial at Ground Zero and the near-completion of the World Trade Center One, Daniel Libeskind’s vision for the World Trade Center site is close to presenting the future of NYC’s downtown financial center, 11 years after the attacks. Studio Daniel Libeskind was selected to develop the master plan for the site in 2003, and since has been coordinating with NYC’s numerous agencies and individual architects to rebuild the site. The project, in Libeskind’s words, is a “healing of New York”, a “site of memory” and “a space to witness the resilience of America”.

Follow us after the break for more on the elements and progress of the master plan.

The master plan supplies the framework for the massing and location of the program elements of the site, building heights and size and relationship to one another. It includes guidelines for infrastructure, transportation, sustainability standards and security strategies. The 16-acre site includes 4 towers, a Transportation Hub, Visitors Pavilion, Memorial Museum, and Memorial each with its own architect, providing a collaborative agenda for the masterplan.

WTC Overview © Joe Woolhead

Early sketches of Libeskind’s design feature an energy of interconnectedness among the landmarks of New York City – the shine of the Statue of Liberty with the spires of the towers, for example. Libeskind’s plan called for a holistic design that addressed the site as much more than “just a piece of real-estate”. In the video below, Libeskind describes the buildings that will fill the site as being a foundation for a new, inspired city speaking to the values of New York and America.


Libeskind speaks emotionally about the signifiance of the memorial and its particular presence on the site, including the way it interacts with the existing slurry wall that was built to hold back the Hudson River and the future towers that will rise above it on the site. The Memorial, designed by Michael Arad of Handel Architects, with landscape architect Peter Walker, involves two large square pools on the sunken site. Waterfalls cascade into the center, clouding the actual depth, but giving the impression that it disappears deep within the bedrock of New York, the foundation of the city’s values and accomplishments. Bronze panels around the perimeter of the two pools have inscribed names of the victims of both the 2001 and 1993 attacks. The site is shielded, both visually and acoustically by groves of trees planted around the perimeter and the sound of the waterfalls.

The Visitor’s Pavilion, designed by Snøhetta, is the only above-grade portion of the memorial site among the fountains that also serves as an entrance to the Memorial Museum. The facade echos elements of the original towers with steel mullions that wrap around the semi-organic geometry of the form. Two steel tridents from the towers are on view in the pavilion and are on display for the city through large glazed portions of the facade which also direct light down into the museum. Below the plaza, the subterranean Memorial Museum, designed by Davis Brody Bond serves as an icon that memorializes elements from the towers, including salvaged structural columns and views of the slurry wall. In this way, the museum is contained within the artifacts of the towers and serve as memory, as Libeskind says, “of the resilience of America”.

North Pool looking Southeast © Joe Woolhead

The towers are envisioned as spiraling around the memorial site, with Tower 1 being the tallest and the others progressively shorter. Libeskind says the intension for the this massing strategy was to distribute the real estate among several buildings, remaining faithful to New York City’s grid, and maintaining a level of street life for a visceral experience of the site. One World Trade Center, also known as the Freedom Tower, is now nearing completion. Designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, the 1,776-foot tall tower will be the tallest tower in New York City. The tower is designed as a beacon for the city, and in conjunction with the other three towers planned for the site, will echo the lantern of the statue of liberty. Visually rising from the bedrock of the Memorial Museum, the tower recalls both the foundation at the bedrock level to the aspirations of the city at the spire. View more progress photos here.

Tower 2 by Foster and Partners, the second tallest tower at 1,349 feet is a mixed use building that will connect the street level with the below-grade WTC Transportation Hub. The diamond-shaped summit of the tower slopes down to the memorial below and along with Tower 1 echos the Statue of Liberty’s lantern. Tower 3 by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partnership will rise to a height of 1,240 feet and includes visible diamond bracing on the sides of the tower. Tower 4, the shortest of the towers, is designed by Maki and Associates. It is the end of the spiral of towers that Libeskind describes and steps down towards the memorial site. The towers are all in the process of being constructed and will be completed between September 2012 and 2013.

WTC Site Day, Silverstein Properties, New York © Silverstein Properties

The construction Santiago Calatrava‘s signature Transportation Hub is well on its way to serve PATH customers on their daily commute. Check out a video of the space here, courtesy of the Wall Street Journal featuring the sinuous interior that will include connections between PATH customers and 12 subway lines as well as retail spaces. Scheduled for completion in 2014, after a series of delays, the hub is unlike anything NYC currently has to offer by way of transportation concourses. For one it is more transparent, allowing nature light to flood the interior.

Ground Zero Master Plan © SDL

Over the years there have been hiccups with the plan, debates among the architects, and divergent design goals but in an interview last year with the Huffington Post, Libeskind says, “I’m so happy to be able to design a piece of this city” and although he is not responsible for the design of the any of individual buildings as was intended, his “broad strokes”‘ over the master plan provide the framework for a revived financial center that is an integration of public and private space that collectively captures a site of memory with the values of America: “freedom, liberty, a participatory society, and tolerance”. At the 2012 AIA National Convention, the architects of the World Trade Center Site received a tribute for their work as “Architects of Healing”.

WTC, Silverstein Properties, New York © Silverstein Properties

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Cite: Irina Vinnitskaya. "Ground Zero Master Plan / Studio Daniel Libeskind" 23 Sep 2012. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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