WTC Site “Planning”

When I first proposed “breathtaking inanity” as the new “irrational exuberance,” I knew the phrase would come in handy, but I had only an inkling of just how handy. Today’s installment comes from a great Times article by David Dunlap about how a draft of the design guidelines for the World Trade Center site have been circulating for two years with no finalization in sight while building designs have been thrown at the wall like spaghetti just to see what sticks:

In that time, the Freedom Tower has been designed and redesigned, partly following the draft guidelines and partly ignoring them. The transportation hub has been designed in a form quite unlike that contemplated in the 2003 draft. Ditto, the memorial. Ditto, the cultural building.

Now, the architect Norman Foster … has been chosen by Larry A. Silverstein to design the second largest office tower on the site…

And there are still no guidelines.

In a recent piece I wrote about the Transbay Terminal (or the “Grand Central of the West”) in San Francisco, my favorite line got cut from the piece (for good reason, I will readily admit), but I so wanted to indirectly point out the right way to plan a site. The final line in this graph, alas, did not appear in print:

The [Transbay Terminal and accompanying tower] competition, guided by conceptual designs unveiled on Dec. 19, is a result of … the adoption of a high-density master plan, devised by Skidmore Owings & Merrill, to redevelop the surrounding 40 acres and provide much of the financing for the terminal and tower. In other words, years of planning, coalition building, and financial structuring were done before the public’s imagination was dazzled by star-studded architecture.

Sigh.

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