The Architect’s Newspaper

GROUND ZERO: THE CULTURAL COMPONENT AND THE COMMERCIAL IMPERATIVE

Two design competitions determined the direction of the master plan at Ground Zero and the concept and position of the 9/11 memorial and museum. Less clear in their functions, locations, and funding were other cultural institutions awarded a potential place on the site. The cultural component was a key idea to both the rebuilding at Ground Zero and the recovery of lower Manhattan.

Meanwhile, the four skyscrapers that would replace the 9 million square feet of office space of the destroyed Twin Towers moved forward with a private investor-developer, Silverstein Properties, in a challenging commercial environment. Today three of the four towers are completed, while Tower 2 has stump foundations and an uncertain future.

The first of the pair of programs will analyze the development of Ground Zero as built, looking back on the continuously evolving plans for the cultural institutions and buildings that memorialize the tragedy of 9/11. Today the last of the Ground Zero sites defined by the Libeskind master plan, the Performing Arts Center, is nearing completion.

The second of the paired programs will assess the tensions between the commercial imperatives of the private office development, the economic context, and the pace of rebuilding, and the constraints of politics on the city, state, and federal levels.