British architect returns to the W.T.C. to design new tower


By Josh Rogers

Architect Norman Foster said he wants to design a building that will liven up Church St.

World-renowned architect Norman Foster, whose two bended, “kissing towers” reminiscent of the Twin Towers lost out to Daniel Libeskind’s site plan for the World Trade Center site three years ago, will design the site’s first Church St. tower.

Foster said that as he sets out to design the building, he will keep in mind that it could be the site’s only office tower on Church St. for a year or two. “I think you’re conscious of the fact that for some time it’s going to be a stand-alone building,” Foster told Downtown Express last Thursday, the day developer Larry Silverstein and Gov. George Pataki announced that the British lord would be designing Tower 2, between Church, Vesey, Greenwich and Fulton Sts.

Pataki, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Community Board 1 and others have emphasized the importance of speeding up the development of Church St. in order to bring a feeling of life back to the street. Silverstein hopes to begin construction on the 65-story building in 2008 and open the building in 2011.

Foster, 70, said he wants residents and workers to have a welcoming feeling as they walk past the building. “It’s something that brings life,” he said in an interview at 7 World Trade Center, where he will set up his New York office. “It’s not just a blank wall. It’s not a private, corporate ‘keep out,’ so I’d like it to be inviting. I’d like it to be lively.”

He hopes there will also be plant life in front of the building on Church St.

Silverstein said the 2.4 million square-foot building will also have about 130,000 square feet of retail space on the street, above ground and underground and will be connected to the Santiago Calatrava-designed train station on Church St. The building’s address will be 200 Greenwich St.

Pataki has told Silverstein he can have the state’s remaining $1.67 billion of tax-free Liberty Bonds, conditioned on Silverstein resolving his remaining disputes with the Port Authority, which owns the site and leased the Trade Center complex to Silverstein two months before 9/11. Pataki shares control of the Port with New Jersey. The agency is negotiating with Silverstein on the site’s retail configuration and is reportedly trying to get him to give up control of Towers 3, 4 and 5. Silverstein still hopes to build all five towers on the site and he is negotiating with Mayor Bloomberg for about $1.67 billion in Liberty Bonds to help him do that.

The Port Authority must do excavation work and build slurry walls before construction can begin on Church St. and the Tower 2 site is expected to be the first site ready.

Foster has done some initial private sketches, but said he has not begun to design the building. In December 2002, he was one of seven finalists and he proposed “two towers, which kiss and touch” that scored well in public opinion polls. His proposal did not make the next cut and lost out to Libeskind early in 2003. He reportedly was angrier than the other architects who lost, but last week he said he had no ill feelings.

“You win some competitions, you lose some,” he said. “You move on. I wouldn’t be here if I had any of those negative feelings.”

Three years ago he imagined a memorial being in a void at the Twin Towers’ footprints, which turned out to be consistent with the Michael Arad design that was subsequently picked.

“You look into the void and never see life,” Foster said then. He imagined a child going from there to the top of the tower. “The little girl looks out and sees forever.”

He said his previous work gives him a good understanding of the site, but he will put that aside when he designs the new building. Like the 1,776-foot Freedom Tower, it will be on Fulton St.

Foster, based in London, has designed the new German Parliament in the Reichstag in Berlin, Hong Kong’s Chek Lap Kok International Airport, and the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank, also in Hong Kong. In 1999, he won architecture’s top prize, the Pritzker. He was knighted by the Queen of England in 1990 and received a Life Peerage in 1999, becoming Lord Foster of Thames Bank.

Pataki praised his accomplishments and said “you belong here at the World Trade Center site.”

Foster’s 2002 design for “kissing towers” at the W.T.C. site.


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