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Steven Spielberg Focuses on Ground Zero

March 18, 2010

By C.J. Hughes

A film legend who’s taken on D-Day, slave revolts, and the Holocaust is aiming his cameras at the site of a solemn modern-day event.

Steven Spielberg is serving as executive producer of Rebuilding Ground Zero, a six-part television documentary about the construction efforts at the former World Trade Center. The show, which began shooting in mid-February in Lower Manhattan, is set to air on the Science Channel in fall 2011, in time for the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks.

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Conceived by Brooklyn-based architect Danny Forster, who will provide narration, and Jonathan Hock, who will direct, the show will largely celebrate architectural and engineering accomplishments at the site.

An entire episode will be dedicated to One World Trade Center, the 1,776-foot office tower by David Childs, FAIA, of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, which is the first of four planned towers to go up on the 16-acre site; New York’s Port Authority is developing it.

Meanwhile, a transit hub by Santiago Calatrava, FAIA, will be profiled in a separate episode, and the site’s memorial, which was designed by Michael Arad, AIA, will be featured in a third.

The show will also weave in stories about the workers who are actually constructing the new buildings, some of whom also helped to rebuild the original World Trade Center after it was bombed in 1993, according to those involved with the show.

What won’t likely be seen, though, are shots of the buildings collapsing; Rebuilding also won’t dwell on the infamous delays that have stemmed from squabbles over design requirements and financing, Forster explains.

“Those memories will fade with the passage of time,” says Forster, who’s currently the host of Build It Bigger, a three-year-old architecture-themed program that’s also on the Science Channel. “This show is about looking forward.”

In early February, Spielberg, the award-winning creator of Saving Private Ryan, Amistad and Schindler’s List paid his first visit to the site, where he signed a beam that will end up on the 20th floor of One World Trade, according to Forster. Spielberg was not available for comment.

Rebuilding, which is the first show to be filmed at the site, could generate some sympathy for those tasked with coordinating the construction, says Joe Daniels, president of the National 9/11 Memorial, a not-for-profit fundraising group.

Indeed, after learning about the challenges of building one of the world’s tallest buildings, restoring two city streets and developing a new train station, while not interrupting an active commuter railway, Daniels says, viewers may appreciate “how complex the project really is.”  

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