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Should new WTC buildings be world's tallest?
Sunday January 12, 2003

Associated Press Writer

NEW YORK (AP) Replacing the fallen World Trade Center with the world's tallest building would demonstrate courage.

Or hubris.

When it comes to rebuilding at ground zero, the meaning is in the mind of the beholder. Five of the nine designs for a rebuilt trade center propose structures surpassing Malaysia's 1,483-foot Petronas Twin Towers as the tallest in the world. The public will weigh in on the designs, which were unveiled last month, at a hearing on Monday. Officials will select a final plan in the next few weeks after hearing the opinions.

"Failing to rebuild full scale is what paints a bull's-eye on other landmarks," said Louis Epstein, founder of the World Trade Center Restoration Movement, a group that favors reconstructing the towers essentially in their original image. "It emboldens the terrorists to do more."

Beverly Willis, director of the Architecture Research Institute and a founder of a community group called Rebuild Downtown Our Town, disagreed.

The "wound" in New York's skyline should be repaired with something tall and distinctive, she said. But creating the world's tallest building without regard to the neighborhood "just seems to be not only impractical, but ostentatious and generally in bad taste," she said.

Willis said the whole idea of building the world's tallest skyscraper is outdated a relic of the 1960s, when new technology allowed construction of 110-story twin towers. The nine designs by seven teams of architects were commissioned by the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which together will choose one plan by next month.

While no one is suggesting the new construction will faithfully reproduce any of the models, officials will base their plans on one of the designs.

Some, like Norman Foster's "kissing towers," offer occupied office buildings taller than the 1,350-foot trade center towers. Others would consist of airy structures that invoke the towers without replicating them.

Daniel Libeskind, whose design includes a spire with the symbolically significant height of 1,776 feet, said only the first 70 stories of his building would house offices. Above the office level, tourists would visit his "gardens of the world," Libeskind said.

"It's like going to the high point of the Eiffel Tower," he said. "You don't go there for more than a few minutes."

The memory of the 2,792 Sept. 11 victims ensures fire safety will be of paramount concern to the new structure.

Greg Lynn, whose United Architects presented a design that combines five buildings into one crystalline structure, described in detail a system of stairways connected every 30 floors by areas where people also could move horizontally.

"From any point in the building you have literally thousands of ways to get down to the ground, so it's a very safe complex," Lynn said.

The team's proposal also includes a 1,620-foot tower.

*Glenn Corbett, a professor of fire science at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said that any tall building at the trade center site will need "cutting-edge" fire-safety technology including sturdier construction and elevators that can be used in a fire if stairs take too long.

But if you build it, will they come?

Last August, a New York Times/CBS poll found that 53 percent of New Yorkers would not work in an upper floor of any new building at the trade center site. Fifty-nine percent said that whatever is built at the site should not be as tall as it was before.

But fears could fade in the decade it will take to rebuild.

"By that time I believe all of the safety concerns will have been addressed," said Meyer Feig, who heads the World Trade Center Tenants Association.

Feig, who ran a headhunting firm in the south tower, said his group consists of about 130 smaller tenants from the towers. Most of that group who responded to a recent survey want to see at least a 110-story building on the site.

"It makes the statement that we may have been attacked, but we'll rebuild and come back stronger than ever," Feig said.


© Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

*Prof. Corbett, a licensed Fire Protection Engineer , sits on the Professional Advisory Panel of the Skyscraper Safety Campaign.

Sally Regenhard,

P. O. Box 70
Woodlawn Station
Bronx, NY 10470

Monica Gabrielle,

P. O. Box 70
Woodlawn Station
Bronx, NY 10470