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Architect Chefs in the WTC Kitchen; Bonus Bon Mots From Snøhetta

We enjoy speculating about the World Trade Center site as much as the next media outlet, but the best route is often straight to the source. Here now, intrepid events man-on-the-ground Ian Volner spends a day with the architecture puppeteers and reports back.

For a few hours this week, the Center for Architecture was at the eye of the 9/11 anniversary storm, with a full-day function on Thursday entitled “Lower Manhattan Rising: Looking Toward 9/11/2021." Chockablock with panel discussions and slide shows, the event took in the full sweep of WTC redevelopment over the last decade, with cameo appearances from Robin Abrams of real estate heavy The Lansco Corporation to newly-installed Architectural Record editor Cathleen McGuigan. But the highlight of the afternoon? Without a doubt, a round robin on planning and politics with moderator Paul Goldberger of The New Yorker that brought together almost of all of the design-world chefs in the WTC kitchen: Daniel Libeskind, Craig Dykers of Snøhetta, Bruce Fowl of FXFowle, and Michael Arad of Handel Architects.

True to form, Libeskind uncorked an almost flawless sequence of verbal somersaults, mostly in an effort to reassert his authorial role in the face of the now much-changed master plan. “I once saw Toscanini conducting. In an orchestra, you can’t choose the players. It’s the same thing designing a master plan!” Goldberger was mostly approving; Arad was sincere and contemplative—a lot like his soon-to-open reflecting pools.

Craig Dykers (he whose firm, pictured, is behind the 9/11 memorial pavilion on Greenwich Street) was a sly and insightful presence during the proceedings, and Curbed grabbed him by the scruff of his black semi-Nehru jacket on his way out the door.

Curbed: Do you get to see these guys a lot? How often do the various WTC players get to hang out?

Dykers: No, we’re really busy. We’ve all got so many projects. It’s not like we have a special clubhouse or anything. I’m running to catch a plane right now myself.

Curbed: You mentioned you actually—

Dykers: Saw the second plane hit the south tower from the window of a plane that I was on, over Long Island, on 9/11. I was actually on my way from Oslo to participate in a competition against Daniel. I just saw a lot of smoke all of a sudden, couldn’t tell what it was? I seem to have a lot of important moments on and around planes these days. I passed myself in an airport the other day.

Curbed: Favorite moment of the symposium?

Dykers: I just thought it was a great opportunity to get together and hear from the various sides. It’s such a multi-faceted project, with so many moving parts.

Curbed: I think you had a one-liner on the subject of complex projects?

Dykers: “The best made plans never get laid.”
—Ian Volner
· 9/11 Memorial coverage [Curbed]
· Center for Architecture [cfa.aiany.org]