We can officially assume now, I think, that Daniel Libeskind and the Freedom
Tower are barely connected any more, let alone in any kind of one-designed-the-other
relationship. My guess is that when all is said and done, the name and the location
– at the north-west corner of the World Trade Center site – will
be Libeskind; the rest will be David Childs.
In the time since my last WTC
update, a number of crucial court decisions have gone against Larry Silverstein,
the leasholder of the original towers. They were insured for about $3.5 billion,
but Silverstein spent untold millions of dollars in a desperate attempt to get
double the amount that the towers were insured for, saying that he should be
paid out in full for each of the two attacks. In the end, he failed, and now
he simply doesn’t have the money to start building the spiral of skyscrapers
that Libeskind imagined in his site plan. I’m sure that Normal Foster, Fumihiko
Maki and Jean Nouvel – the architects slated to design the other office
towers – still have some kind of contract going, but if I were them, I
wouldn’t be holding my breath.
What that means is that the Freedom Tower is going to be a self-standing landmark
for the foreseeable future, much more than a single element in a much larger
scheme. There will be lots of interesting stuff going on at ground level, of
course, but as far as the skyline is concerned, the Freedom Tower is pretty
much the beginning and the end of what’s going to rise at the WTC site.
As a consequence, it makes little sense for Childs to compromise his own vision
overmuch in the service of a greater unity which might well never happen. (Even
if the other office towers do get built, there’s no guarantee that their architects
will pay any more obeisance to the Libeskind master plan than Childs has done.)
So the sloping roof is likely to go, the height of the tower is likely to increase
from Libeskind’s symbolic 1,776 feet to the CAA’s maximum allowable 2,000 feet,
and the spire could well be jettisoned entirely.
I haven’t seen any new designs which make me say this. But I have seen the
reports, and it’s clear that Libeskind and Silverstein are barely on speaking
terms any more. Libeskind wants $800,000 for his work on the Freedom Tower;
Silverstein has offered $125,000 and clearly has no interest maintaining a good
working relationship with the avant-garde architect.
The difference seems to come down, at heart, to the question of whether the
Freedom Tower is an integral part of the site plan, on which, there is no doubt,
Libeskind has done a lot of work. Silverstein says that it’s his building, he’s
got his own architect, and that insofar as Libeskind did work on the tower as
part of the master plan, he was compensated for it out of his $2.25 million
fee from the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation.
Both the New York
Post and Miss
Representation are pretty dismissive of Libeskind’s claims, which are backed
up with no time sheets or other documentation. But I can kind of see where Libeskind
is coming from: any officially-designated "collaborating architect"
would feel he was owed something substantial from the building he was collaborating
on, especially when that building was probably the single most important skyscraper
to be built in many decades. Ultimately, however, I imagine that history will
treat Libeskind’s contributions to the Freedom Tower as even less important
than Philip Johnson’s contributions to the Seagram Building: Johnson is much
more famous for designing the Four Seasons restaurant on the inside than he
is for designing the building itself. Maybe Libeskind should angle for the gig
as lead architect on the new Windows on the World.