After weeks of speculation, The New York Times Magazine will finally publish this Sunday its special issue on the World Trade Center site, past and present. What’s actually in the issue?
An advance copy reviewed by E&P boasts a twin cover story concerning the twin towers: The building of the Trade Center and its “Life and Death Implications,” by James Glanz and Eric Lipton; and a re-imagining of Lower Manhattan by a dream team of architects, called “The Masters’ Plan.”
In its “epic biography” of the twin towers, the Times reprints an eerily prophetic 1968 advertisement, in which “critics warned that the towers were so mammoth that a plane might crash into them.” The ad includes a realistic drawing of a jetliner about to crash into a high floor of one of the towers.
The magazine’s other major article — “Architects Daring New York to Think Big” — covers about 17 pages. The newspaper had been secretive about the members of the dream team, sparking a lot of guess work in the media. As it turns out, the list includes notables Charles Gwathmey, Rem Koolhaas, Rafael Vinoly, Maya Lin, Richard Meier, and almost 20 others.
According to the Times, the architects met over a three-month period (“curated” by critic Herbert Muschamp) to collaborate on a rebuilding plan, “an incitement to the city to think big.” Given the influence of the newspaper, this has possibly profound implications, since the government’s own rebuilding plans have gotten bogged down in criticism from many quarters.
The Times‘ team ended up looking beyond Ground Zero, sensing “a historic opportunity to construct a far-ranging scheme for all of lower Manahttan.” Over many pages they present their vision using a blueprint, stunning architectural drawings, and captions.
Their plan for the Trade Center site is summarized in print as: “Preserve ground zero as an open, hallowed place and tilt its focus from commerce to culture.” But it goes on from there to offer designs for new towers; and they propose a re-thinking of West Street, the New York Stock Exchange area and, essentially, all of “Manhattan’s disjointed downtown.” Among the bold ideas: the creation of a “Hall of Risk” cybertheater at the site of the stock exchange.
An interactive version, featuring audio interviews with many of the architects, will be available at NYTimes.com.
In the other feature, the “epic biography” of the original Trade Center project, Lipton and Glanz examine how each decision by the planners and builders ultimately decided who would live and who would die on Sept. 11. Components like glass facades and gypsum wallboard interiors allowed the towers to reach record heights — but also caused them to become “the biggest tombstones in the world.”