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Design for Snøhetta's World Trade Center Cultural Center Unveiled

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Images Courtesy LMDC/ Placebo Effects and Snøhetta

New York Governor George Pataki, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, which oversees construction at the World Trade Center, unveiled a schematic design for the first of two cultural buildings at the Trade Center site on May 19. The "Cultural Center" building, designed by Norwegian firm Snøhetta, will house The Drawing Center and a new museum called the International Freedom Center. Frank Gehry's performing performing arts building will be unveiled at a later date.

Snøhetta's building, which will sit on the northeast corner of the memorial plaza, was designed to minimize interference with the memorial itself. In contrast to the planned 1776-foot Freedom Tower, the Cultural Center would be a low, horizontal building, with clear sightlines from Greenwich Street, on the east, to the World Trade Center Memorial on the west.

Stefan Pryor, the president of the LMDC, said that "Because [the Cultural Center] is suspended in midair, it offers unimpeded visual and physical access to the World Trade Center Memorial site."

Craig Dykers, one of the two Snøhetta designers on hand, said that the architects worked with both clients in biweekly workshops over a 90-day period. His partner, Kjetil Thorsen, explained the "tabletop design" for the structure. Snøhetta worked with the New York office of Buro Happold engineers to design the system, whereby the bulk of the building would be hung from a supporting structure at its roof. That structure, in turn, would be supported at its corners. A processional ramp would lead visitors up from ground level to the exhibition and auditorium spaces above.

Mayor Bloomberg attempted to preempt criticism from the families of September 11th victims by complimenting "a design that integrates the memorial, and is respectful of the buildings around it."

Governor Pataki, who has been under fire for delays at the World Trade Center site, announced a timeline for various projects on the site. He said Snøhetta’s cultural center would break ground in 2007, and that new plans for the Freedom Tower, which is being redesigned to address safety concerns, would be presented in June. This summer, construction will begin on the Santiago Calatrava–designed PATH terminal. Crews would break ground to build the memorial plaza itself in 2006, and the cultural center would break ground in 2007.

Kevin Lerner