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  • Location New York, NY
  • Client Lower Manhattan Development Corporation
  • Program 9/11 Memorial
  • Project Team:

    Concordia

Ground Zero: A Place for Silence and Listening

After the towers of the World Trade Center fell to the ground, a polarized debate about what would replace them ensued.  On one side, the affairs of power and commerce are represented, proposing initially to rebuild the towers in their former glory, and on the other side, there are the affairs of the heart, opting instead to memorialize those whose lives were lost in the tragic event. The shortcoming of both of these approaches is the underlying assumption that a resolution of the issues surrounding the events of 9/11 can be met on one 16-acre site in the heart of the Financial District.  While the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC) called on planners and architects to create bold and innovative design solutions, the answer for innovation lies not from a place of “without,” but from deep “within.”  The solution to the dichotomous challenge of the World Trade Center site lies in finding a synergy between the world community’s financial and spiritual needs.

On the morning of September 11, 2001 at the World Trade Center in New York the thunderous powers of evil and destruction made their presence known.  But the afternoon that followed brought with it a quiet miracle of public compassion and democracy.  It is the quiet miracle that must prevail.  It is a time for silence and listening.  The highest and best use for the site is to celebrate our collective commitment to live the miracle – to commemorate our grief, our hopes and our trust in the spiritual forces that brought these more elevated events into being.  The manifestation of these forces is beyond the capacity of even the most talented designer’s mind or heart to create. It is through a quiet and simple reverence for the awe and unnamed elegance of the natural world that we can best convey our timeless faith and humility at such an important moment of spiritual aspiration and need.

The Concordia proposal for rebuilding the World Trade Center after 9/11 would return the site to its natural landscape through the uninhibited growth of plant material contained in soil transplanted from the native forests of upstate New York. This natural park would be dedicated to the Native American people who once occupied the lower Manhattan site and would represent a renewed commitment to global peace, harmony and mutual understanding. A simple layer of native topsoil spread across the site would bring with it seeds of transition.  Within months the ground would transform itself into a meadow, within years a pine forest, and within decades a mature grove of hardwoods. At every turn and through every season, the forces of nature would pass on their wealth and harmony to those who come to contemplate or just to visit. A permanent reliquary containing manifestos from every religion on earth, and buried deep beneath the site, would serve as a reminder that our most powerful individual needs can be incorporated into a single collective whole. A series of celebrations would mark special and sacred events, such as an annual casting of wildflower seeds in memory of those whose lives were lost in a place where our country’s collective spirit would be made visible and continuously reborn.

For those who advocate restructuring the 11 million square feet of space contained previously within the World Trade Center, these economic and financial assets would be dispersed and reconstituted in many smaller pieces as Community Growth and Development Centers, one in every neighborhood throughout the New York metropolitan region. It is here that community planners, business and social entrepreneurs, economists, architects, artists, community organizers, educators and others could work together to engage community stakeholders in the design of local prototypes for a new national engine of development and prosperity – not just for some, but for everyone. Enabling the development of commercial spaces “off site,” with a focus on community growth, would also allow the economic assets that were formerly allocated to the Financial District to grow and expand over time, instead of being bound by the limits of space around Wall Street.  Through long-term commitments, profit and not-for-profit enterprises could cooperate for the overall good of the community.  Each center would be different depending on local needs.  For an example of how it could work, look only as far as the Museum of Modern Art, where a public museum exists symbiotically with the revenue-generating private condominiums above.  In less affluent neighborhoods, social and educational programs could be similarly combined with economic development uses with equal or even greater success.