Commemorating 9/11 USA

From attack to the death of Bin Laden

A timeline of the events that led to the rebuilding of the World Trade Center site

The Twin Towers burning on the morning of 11 September 2001, as seen from the Brooklyn Promenade

11 September 2001 At 08.46, a hijacked Boeing 767 crashes into the north tower of the World Trade Center. Fifteen minutes later, the south tower is struck by a second airliner. The first tower collapses about an hour after the attack. The second resists for a further 30 minutes, then it too crashes down. Smaller buildings on the site are also destroyed; those to the east are severely damaged. The death toll is almost 2,800.

2 November 2001 George Pataki, then governor of New York, together with the mayor, Rudolph Giuliani, founds the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC), a joint state/city body, to manage the reconstruction of Ground Zero and oversee the planning process.

27 December 2001 Mayor Giuliani, in his end-of-term speech, launches the idea of erecting a memorial on Ground Zero. LMDC is deluged by thousands of unsolicited proposals from architects and private individuals.

17 January 2002 New York’s Max Protetch Gallery organises an exhibition of designs by 58 architects (of 125 invited to take part) to stimulate thinking on the redevelopment of the site. The exhibitors include Steven Holl, Zaha Hadid and Daniel Libeskind.

6 May 2002 LMDC, increasingly at loggerheads with the Port Authority (the landowner), takes delivery of proposals from a number of local design studios selected to produce the redevelopment plan. The winner is Beyer Blinder Belle (BBB), a prominent New York design studio specialising in restoration. The result is described as “mediocre” by the New York Times critic Herbert Muschamp. The Port Authority, vexed by the decision, finally persuades LMDC to scale down BBB’s input and bring in David Childs’s Skidmore, Owings & Merrill studio and two local city-planners.

20 July 2002 The top six official projects for the site are presented to “Listening to the City”, a broad-based public consultation. The public reaction is negative. The Wall Street Journal critic Ada Louise Huxtable describes them as “six losers devoid of imagination”.

19 August 2002 LMDC realises it must produce plans of higher quality and sacks BBB. Meanwhile, Muschamp fuels the debate in the pages of the New?York Times and promotes an initiative bringing together several star architects. LMDC launches a new, more open competition.

September 2002 LMDC announces the names of those selected for the Innovative Design Study. From 406 submissions, it selects seven: Norman Foster, Daniel Libeskind, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, Peterson-Littenberg, Think (Viñoly-Fred Schwartz), United Architects (Ben van Berkel, Jesse Reiser, Kevin Kennon) and The Team Dream (Peter Eisenman, Charles Gwathmey, Steven Holl, Richard Meier).

20 November 2002 Plans for the reconstruction of World Trade Center Seven are announced by Larry Silverstein. It will have 56 floors and is scheduled for completion in 2005. A month later, the seven projects go on public display at the Winter Garden of the World Financial Center.

25 February 2003 LMDC selects the finalists: Think and Libeskind. It eventually opts for Think, even though the estimated cost is twice that of the Libeskind project. But George Pataki, now executive director of the Port Authority, does not agree and insists that the commission be given to Libeskind, who presents the “Memory Foundations” master plan featuring a descending spiral of five towers. The tallest is the Freedom Tower, inspired by the Statue of Liberty. Its illuminated mast is 1,776 feet above the ground, an allusion to the date of the American declaration of independence.

1 April 2003 Pataki and LMDC agree not to build anything, at least in the vicinity of the place where the twin towers stood. LMDC gives notice of a second competition for a memorial to commemorate the victims of the 1993 and 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center.

Summer 2003 Santiago Calatrava is commissioned to design the Path Terminal interchange station. Though 60 metres below street level, it will be naturally lit. In January, the project is presented at the Winter Garden.

4 July 2004 Pataki lays the foundation stone of the Freedom Tower. It is to be the safest skyscraper ever built, with a central core of reinforced concrete two metres thick.

November 2004 Of the more than 5,000 projects submitted for the memorial, eight are selected and again displayed at the Winter Garden. Peter Walker and Michael Arad are the winners with Reflecting Absence—two recessed pools, surrounded by cascading water, encompassing the footprints of the original twin towers.

29 June 2005 David Childs (senior partner of the Skidmore, Owings & Merrill design studio) presents the final project for the Freedom Tower. It is a multi-faceted truncated pyramid, presenting a continuous façade of eight (alternating upright and inverted) isosceles triangles. Libeskind is consigned to a secondary role following misunderstandings with SOM.

September 2005 Construction work begins on Calatrava’s Path Terminal project.

15 December 2005 Silverstein Properties announces that Norman Foster will design the second World Trade Center tower.

7 September 2006 The first steel column of tower one is set in place. The developer, Silverstein Properties, presents the plans for towers two, three and four, designed by Norman Foster, Richard Rogers and Fumihiko Maki respectively. Foster’s plan is for a 78-storey skyscraper culminating in an inclined diamond-shaped structure which will project morning light onto the memorial. Rogers’s tower will be the third highest of the buildings (300m), while Maki adopts a minimalist approach for his 61-storey tower, made of glass and clad in steel sheeting.

September 2007 World Trade Center officials and architects, in conjunction with Silverstein Properties, present the final drawings and building plans for towers two, three and four, designed to be models of safety, advanced technology and environmental efficiency.

18 April 2008 Pope Benedict XVI blesses the site. In September, the plans for towers two, three and four are completed.

27 March 2009 The Port Authority changes the name of the Freedom Tower to One World Trade Center, believing this will make space in the site’s tallest skyscraper more saleable. Two months later, the Port Authority decides not to go ahead with the construction of tower five, designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox.

December 2010 The steel structure of the memorial pavilion is completed.

14 March 2011 Work on One World Trade Center reaches the 56th floor. It is scheduled for completion in 2013. Tree-planting at the memorial is well advanced. Everything possible is being done to complete Reflecting Absence for the tenth anniversary of the attacks.

2 May 2011 Osama bin Laden is killed in Pakistan by the US military. On receiving the news, Mayor Michael Bloomberg affirms: “Osama bin Laden is dead and the World Trade Center is pulsating with new life; Lower Manhattan is vibrant with new activity and the spirit of New York has never been stronger.”

Giacinto Cerviere

The writer’s book L’Assalto: Città uomini e architetture attorno ai fatti dell’11 Settembre (The Attack: City, People and Architecture in Relation to the Events of 11 September) is published by Libria, €18

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