A Ground-Level Glimpse of the Future WTCDec 10, 2008
The towers have two faces. That’s the message put forth by architects who gathered on Monday to present “Ground Floor at the World Trade Center.”
Speaking at the Center for Architecture on December 8th, planners from Silverstein Properties, Maki and Associates, and Peter Walker Partners explained that their work on the three east-side towers is a dual challenge: To create a respectful, non-commercial space along the restored Greenwich Street, which borders the National 9/11 Memorial, and a welcoming urban streetscape with a retail frontage along Church Street.
“We found that there’s a dichotomy in [the Trade Center] context,” said Gary Kamemoto of Maki and Associates. “We focus on the Memorial, but actually the commercial corridor on Church Street is in a way more meaningful to people working downtown, and to people living in the neighborhood.”
Designs for the three east-side towers, situated on the blocks between Liberty and Vesey Streets, were unveiled in September 2006. Developer Silverstein Properties announced then that three of the world’s most prestigious architects created complimentary structures that suit Daniel Libeskind’s master plan, while meeting economic demands by creating more than six million square feet of office space.
The designs also showed that a half-million total square feet of retail space will fill out the towers’ lower three floors (lower four floors in the case of Tower 2), while two sub-grade levels will form a unified retail space beneath the towers and WTC Transportation Hub. The Port Authority will operate the retail space, which will link to Tower 1, with partner Westfield Group.
The three architects — Lord Norman Foster for Tower 2, Lord Richard Rogers for Tower 3, and Fumihiko Maki for Tower 4 — as well as Memorial landscape architects at Peter Walker Partners, had to address the flow of millions of pedestrians who will pass through the new combined retail and transit facility every year.
To meet the various design criteria, all three buildings will house retail and dining areas on their eastern sides, though Tower 4 is expected to have a restaurant on its third floor’s west side — the only one overlooking the Memorial.
Entrances to each of the building’s retail floors are planned to generally keep visitors and commuters moving north-south, with stacked escalators to promote circulation. And while each tower has its own interior-design scheme, they all share a similar transparency on their lower floors, allowing pedestrians on the streets outside clear views to the shops within.
In planning the towers’ surrounding streetscape, Peter Walker’s team, together with Port Authority planners, faced the additional challenge of making Cortlandt Way an inviting pedestrian-only corridor.
Located between Towers 3 and 4, the landscape designers addressed the steep 10-foot grade change between Church and Greenwich Streets with a series of steps and cobblestone terraces. They plan to build several short stone walls against the steps and create the feel of a plaza. The 46-foot-wide passage will be lined with honey-locust trees planted in soil beds below the pavement, while the reflective façades of the towers will help diffuse natural light downward.
The concept of making Cortlandt Way another car-free open space for Lower Manhattan underscores another way designers plan to stitch the WTC back into the city fabric. Planned as a 24/7 environment that will help fuel the downtown economy by 2012, the WTC’s east side is envisioned as a practical destination for local residents and workers, as well as for visitors from around the city and the world.
“Despite the fact that we’re building towers,” said Kamemoto, “We really see this as an urban revitalization project.”