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Old Posted Nov 17, 2008, 9:22 PM
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NY Times

Where Two Towers Once Stood, a Memorial Begins to Materialize

November 17, 2008

Of all the right angles that have been built at ground zero in the last three years, of all the places where steel meets steel at 90 degrees, there is no more meaningful angle right now than the one poised high over the PATH tracks near Fulton Street.

It visibly defines one corner of the north pool of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum and, therefore, one corner of the outline of 1 World Trade Center — a void left in the city fabric after the attack of Sept. 11, 2001.

“Sculptors talk about how the sculpture is already in the stone and all they’re doing is chipping away at it,” said Michael Arad, the architect who won the memorial design competition in 2004, with the landscape architect Peter Walker. “This is the opposite. Our void is already there. It’s there in the sky. And we’re building around it.”

“It’s great to see the faintest contours beginning to emerge,” he said.

As is currently the practice at the trade center project, construction milestones pass quietly, with little public notice or fanfare. But they are no less important to those involved.

“To see the actual framing of the void is a major step in filling in the wound,” said Joseph C. Daniels, the president and chief executive of the memorial and museum, as he looked across ground zero on Oct. 31, toward the embryonic north pool and the pale-green steel framework that has begun to define the south pool, the site of 2 World Trade Center.

“This is the basic structure of the memorial,” Mr. Daniels said. “So it’s a big deal.”

The pools will eventually be at the bottom of two 28-foot-deep depressions in a landscaped and tree-filled plaza, marking the location of the twin towers, though not their exact outlines. (The pools will be 194 by 194 feet, or 13 feet shorter on each side than the trade center buildings.) The insides of these voids will be lined with waterfalls cascading into the pools at the bottom.

At plaza level, the names of all the victims of 9/11 and of the Feb. 26, 1993, trade center bombing will be inscribed on parapets around the perimeter of the pools.

It is not easy at first to make out the shape of the north pool’s corner against a backdrop of heavy construction, but once spotted, it is impossible to overlook. The best public viewing place is the Liberty Street pedestrian bridge, where large windows offer a commanding view of the site.

The corner of the north pool is composed chiefly of two great beams arranged perpendicularly atop a more slender steel framework. One is 52 feet long and 44 inches deep and weighs 13,104 pounds. The other is 72 feet long and 40 inches deep and weighs 42,696 pounds.

The framework below this enormous angle is set back a bit, aligning with the PATH tracks that run alongside. The uppermost corner of the north pool projects about 20 feet over the tracks.

A far larger area of the south pool, about 50 percent, will be constructed over the PATH tracks. That steel underpinning differs from the north pool and is not as instantly recognizable as part of a giant square. But steel erection goes quickly.

“The icing on the cake is the steel coming up,” said Lou Mendes, the vice president of the memorial for design and construction. “People will look at it and say, ‘Oh, my God — construction’s started.’ ”

No one wants the pace to flag, since the goal is to open the memorial plaza by Sept. 11, 2011. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, the chairman of the memorial, said through a spokesman, “The progress we’ve made is heartening, but it’s as important as ever that we continue to push to ensure the target dates are met and, where possible, moved up.”

With the prospect of a long recession, questions will be raised about the feasibility of five enormous office towers around ground zero, including the two tallest in the city.

The commissioners of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey spent almost two stormy hours behind closed doors on Nov. 6 talking about contracts at the site.

“The only consensus that came out,” said Anthony R. Coscia, the chairman, “is that the memorial and the transportation hub are public amenities that ought to receive a priority in terms of getting built.”

Meanwhile, the designers can relish the sight of the life-size, three-dimensional realization of plans that they have been battling over for years.

“Despite all the public negativity, great things have been accomplished, and we’re beginning to see the fruits of that work,” said Steven M. Davis of Davis Brody Bond Aedas, the architects of the museum. “The drawings and concepts are transforming into the built project, and it will continue to develop and materialize before our eyes.

“And isn’t that exciting?”

Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company
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