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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Skyline of Choice

Aired February 27, 2003 - 11:32   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: While you're getting that number down and making your phone calls, we want to take you now to New York for the unveiling of the new design of the structure that's going to be erected at the World Trade Center site.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

JOHN WHITEHEAD, CHAIRMAN, LMDC: ... for the World Trade Center site.

From the beginning Studio Daniel Libeskind, his Memory Foundation's plan resonated with the public. The Libeskind plan succeeds both when it rises into the sky, and when it descends into the ground. In doing so, it captures the soaring optimism of our city, and honors the eternal spirit of our fallen heroes.

Studio Libeskind's plan presents the most compelling vision for the future of the World Trade Center. It prepares abundant and appropriate space for the memorial competition. Going forward, the eventual memorial designer will have the opportunity to create a truly moving memorial with few physical restraints. The plan also offers the most imaginative configuration of commercial, cultural, transportation, and other uses on the site. Its street plan is ingenious, and its public spaces are extraordinary.

The wedge of light, element, in particular, exemplifies the multifaceted strength of the Libeskind plan. Much has been made, with justification, of the sun light that will fill the space from 8:46 to 10:28 on September 11th of each year.

But in addition to that annual symbolic occurrence, the intersection formed by the wedge of light at Greenwich and Fulton Streets will be one of the world's most majestic crossroads every day of the year.

At each corner of the wedge's intersection will stand a powerful, elegant structure. On the first corner will be the memorial museum. On the next corner will be the lower Manhattan transit center, downtown's own Grand Central Station.

Across the way will be a five-star marquee hotel. And on the fourth and final corner will be a performing arts center for some of the city's finest cultural organizations. Stretching across to St. Paul's Chapel and down a renewed Fulton Street, the wedge of light will be a 21st century piazza for the people of New York and of the world. Daniel Libeskind himself embodies the ethos and story of America. His plan evokes the values that define our nation. It will be a pleasure for the LMDC and the Port Authority to work with Mr. Libeskind to flesh out his plan and make it a reality.

In closing I would like to thank all of the design teams for their participation, especially Raphael Vinolli (ph), Frederick Schwartz (ph) and the Think (ph) team for their terrific work, work that far exceeded our expectations. The Think (ph) team's plan seemed to defy gravity with its optimism. The entire city owes the memories of the Think team a debt of gratitude for the energy inspiration and vision they have contributed to our process.

(APPLAUSE)

Let me also thank Lou Thompson for his tremendous effort in getting us to this point. Lou built the LMDC from scratch. The site plan we've arrived at today would not have been possible without Lou's guidance and dedication. We will miss you terribly, Lou.

(APPLAUSE)

And I'd also like to thank Roland Betts for his tireless work in guiding the process. As a direct result of Roland's efforts, including personal attention to the evolution of the finalist plans. The Libeskind design is both breathtaking and practical.

Our hats off to you, Roland.

(APPLAUSE)

In addition, we are grateful to our partners at the port authority, particularly our great friend Joe Seymour and Joe's point position on this project, Tony Carocciola (ph). We also commend the staff, particularly Alex Garvin and Andrew Winters, for their hard and successful work.

Finally, I would like to thank...

(APPLAUSE)

Finally I would like to thank Governor Pataki and Mayor Bloomberg for their wise and strong leadership. The governor and the mayor have truly invested themselves in this process. They have supported us every step of the way, and we are grateful.

Today is a banner day for the LMDC and the Port Authority, as well as for all the individuals and organizations who have participated in the process. We have made great progress, but there is much more work to do.

Now that the site plan has been chosen, we have set the stage for the memorial competition, and we will soon lay out strategies in the area of transportation, building upon the infrastructure plans that have been issued to date. There is still a long road ahead of us.

Thanks to Studio Daniel Libeskind, we now have the best map with which to start the journey.

So with great enthusiasm, it is now my honor and pleasure to introduce the winning team, the makers of our map, Studio Daniel Libeskind.

DANIEL LIBESKIND, ARCHITECT: Thank you so much.

It's a privilege, honor, and a tremendously profound and moving moment to think of the whole history of this project, where it came from, and the future that it opens. I want especially to thank very deeply from my heart Governor Pataki and Mayor Bloomberg. I want to thank the board of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation and the board of the Port Authority. I want to thank John Whitehead, chairman of the LMDC, Lou Thompson, president of the LMDC, and Roland Betts, chairman of the Steering Committee, Joe Seymour, executive director of the Port Authority.

And I'd like to acknowledge all the other architects who participated in this process with the spirit, generosity and conviction.

Finally, I want to thank my wife and partner, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Libeskind, who is here. I would not be here without her. She's sitting there.

(APPLAUSE)

And most deeply, and most profoundly, I want to thank the people of New York, the people of America, the people of the world. But the people of New York for their extraordinary commitment and passion they have shown for the future of this fantastic city. That has been an experience that I've never had, never dreamt of, the democratic participatory experience of citizens in a civic process that is exemplary on a world scale and historical scale. Because without the New Yorkers, without people of America, without people of the world, that soul and heart which represents this enormous site would not be there. And it's really about the heart.

Surely, buildings are built out of concrete, and steel and glass, but they're actually built out of the spiritual content of the heart and the soul of citizens, and it has been a civic process. And I'm a believer in the civic process. Architecture, urban planning are civic arts. They're arts, because they create a wonderful environment, a beautiful place for a future, for families, for neighborhoods, but they're also civic in a sense that they have to be arts of negotiations, arts of compromise, arts of compromise without giving up the ethical integrity of the project, and that's, of course, what this project has been all about, steering between the various interests, the various complex parts, dimensions of this work, and making sure that this project will at the end be delivered to New Yorkers with a spirit that they deserve, as being really the city that is the capital of the world.

I want to say something personal, where I came from, how I started. I really did come on a ship called the "S.S. Constitution" to America as an immigrant with my parents. And when I came to America, I saw that skyline. And It was the overwhelming spatial quality of that skyline, but it was more for an immigrant. It was what America stood for, what the freedoms of America represented to someone coming from the Eastern Europe.

And I have to say, that I'm very sorry that both my parents are not here. They've passed away. But they were lovers of America. They loved this country more than anything in the world. And they would have been very proud to be here, as deep New Yorkers, to see their city being rebuilt.

If I might have the first slide.

I also want to say, just to -- in case there's some confusion, because I've been called all sorts of names in terms of my origins. I was born in Poland, but I am an American. Not only that, when I came here, I went to the Bronx, and I grew up in the Bronx.

(APPLAUSE)

And I went to the Bronx High School of Science, and I studied architecture also in New York City at the Cooper Union. And as a student of architecture, I saw the buildings, the World Trade Center being built. And it was such an inspiring, and controversial and wonderful moment for students of architecture to see those buildings being built.

And today, we are here, and I just want to show you the evolution of this scheme, what -- how it has evolved. What you see on the screen is the spiralling skyscrapers, spiralling up to the 1,776-foot high tower, a spiral that ends in a building that really restores the spiritual and practical skyline of New York.

At the center of this image, you see the memorial park, the memorial area. It's 30 feet below the ground level, exposing the slurry walls, and it stands protected us by the museum buildings, the cultural buildings that frame it. Across the street from that cultural district, which allows the site to be protected, you see the bustling activity of this great city. You see the transit station. You see the cultural, the performing arts center. You see the hotels, the office buildings and the streets. And I think that's really what it's about. It's about paying homage to that great memory of those heroes who died on 9/11.

At the same time, seeing the city move forward in an optimistic, creative and open-minded way with streets, with retail, with infrastructure, with transportation, with all the things that we need to be full citizens of the world.

Next one, please.

On this picture, perspective, you're looking from actually where we are now, World Financial center. We're looking at the memorial site. It's a site which is defined. You see the two great footprints. You see the site below the ground level. It's not as deep as it was before, because I wanted to stabilize the slurry walls' bilateral structure. And there it is, surrounded by the West Street Park, the Liberty Park and the cultural buildings. You see the waterfall. At the center, you see the September 11th Plaza. You see the museum buildings, protecting, giving a dignity and spiritual quality to a site which of course will be developed in the memorial competition, and of course it's a site that can be developed in many, many creative ways.

I wanted to leave the maximum option for those competitors to develop the greatest memorial the world has ever seen.

And then of course on the left side you see, in the foreground you see the park of heroes, and toward Church Street, you see the Wedge of Light and Fulton Street is right here on the left side.

And in the background, you see the high-rise buildings, skyscrapers, which are really working places, with base buildings, with retail, what we are familiar with in terms of the pace, the quality, the intensity, and the magic of the streets of New York.

Next one, please.

Here is the site plan. In the green area -- I don't know how well you can see it -- is really the definition of the memorial site. Very clear. It, I think, has to be a site which has a particular processional (ph) quality. It has to have many ways to enter it and access it. There are at least four entrances. One from the south, from Battery Park at Liberty Street. There's an entrance directly from Greenwich Street, slow ramps taking you down into the site. There's an entrance for September 11th Plaza, at the center of Fulton and Greenwich Street.

And of course, there's from the park of heroes, an entrance as well. So there it is, the site surrounded.

And in yellow, you see the great lower Manhattan station, a spectacular place, right on the wedge of light, and you see on the kitty corner there, the performing arts center with 2,200 seats.

And in pink, you see retail, you see entrance lobbies, you see office buildings; you see the edge of church street as a retail edge. You see really streets that work and function in an economical and also perspectible (ph) way, because the streets have to be interesting, and they're not just a grid of abstract lines; there are streets that give you glimpses and insights into what is happening around you, and it's a site that speaks to an inspired new New York. It's not a site like any other one.

There are new spaces. On the southern side, the extensive (ph) court. You see some things (ph) like the Gallery of Milan. The Wedge of Light is a new piazza that has never really existed. It's a new neighborhood actually being created. The Park of Heroes, a new green space, and of course places with intimacy and also places with grandeur, and I think that's really the spectrum emotions, the spectrums of needs, which this site really represents.

Next one, please. Very important, the infrastructure, the transportation. It's not just making well-oiled machinery to transport thousands, millions of people coming to the site, but to create a dignified and beautiful way to go to work. And you can see here this is minus-two level on the concourse. In yellow, you see the smooth way that the public circulation works. There are three-dimensional light wells, which bring daylight all the way from the station, deep down into the mezzanine levels of the underground. So that people going to work would also enjoy that experience. They would not only be in darkness, they would also be oriented, by the way, to the memorial, because light from the memorial is also pouring into the atrium of the station.

I think that's part of signaling important events, and at the same time, making them happy, making them useful to those people who are really rushing and going to work.

And of course you can see here in pink, the retail, and you can see also the skyscrapers coming down into the retail area. So it's a very functioning, lively transportation system.

Next one, please.

HARRIS: Now who says that architects are dry, boring, passionless people? Not so Daniel Libeskind. He just unveiled his plan there for the World Trade Center site for all of us, and he said the buildings are built on concrete and steel, but this is all about the heart. And you can just tell he had that passion as he spoke about that here, describing what you're seeing here which is a rendition of the plan.

The site, he says, represents a spectrum of emotions and needs. It features a memorial park, which is 30 feet below street level, and he decided that way to retain part of what's called the slurry wall. You've seen that when you look at that pit there that represented what used to be the World Trade Center site. That wall is what holds back -- there it is, it holds back the Hudson River, and many of the families that lost loved ones there said they wanted that -- to at least maintain some part of that, and that is worked into the 'scape there.

Also he says there's a plaza there and museum buildings. You name it, it's down there. And now the work begins on actually putting together the money and putting together the plans and executing that. So we'll have more on this coming up a little bit later on. We expect that once this press conference wraps up, the New York governor, George Pataki, who is there in that press conference is going to come out and talk with us about that plan, and give us his perspective on it.

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