What will rise from the ashes in New York?

09 September 2002
WITH the first anniversary of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centre upon us, debate is raging in the US around the nature of the structure that is to be erected at the site in Lower Manhattan, reputed to be the most expensive real estate in the world.

Real estate developer and Trade Centre leaseholder, Larry Silverstein, has publicly stated that it would be "the tragedy of tragedies" not to rebuild on the one million square meters of space that housed the Trade Centre towers. Many of the victims' family members have pulled together to lobby for the construction of a memorial encompassing the entire World Trade Centre plot.

Paul Goldberger, who writes on architecture for the New Yorker magazine notes that in the past the towers were never beloved by New Yorkers, and many had looked on them as a symbol of American capitalism. "The towers became beloved by the world and thus, they came to represent something powerful. Now to restore them is a complicated issue, because they are so many things to so many different people."

Iain Low, Senior Lecturer at the UCT School of Architecture and Planning, says that the architect and developers working on the site are faced with an enormous task because construction on the site is no longer a private project but a public one.

Low says that there are new ideas around potential memorials on the site because various historical events and landmarks concerning the city have been taken into consideration. "In dealing with the site all sorts of other issues have emerged and some people are asking what was here before the grid of the city was laid down.

"For example, Broadway is part of a trail or original route that starts in Canada and goes all the way down to New Orleans. So now people are asking, 'If we do build a memorial, how far back do we go back in time?' And whose interpretation does one represent? Is the site just a memorial to September 11th?"

Low believes that any new structure should not aim to replicate the old structure, which he believes were specific symbols that are not representative of the current American psyche post-September 11.

"This rebuilding has to reconnect with the public because the World Trade Centre's towers were iconic landmarks. New structures have an ability and a responsibility to connect with the bigger psyche of the nation as well as a global imagination, so there is a possibility to build a new icon, a different image," he concludes.

(For information about the debate around what should be done with Ground Zero go to www.CNN.com.)

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