Humanities › Visual Arts The Master Plan for Ground Zero The 2002 Vision of Daniel Libeskind Share Flipboard Email Print December 2003 model of the new Freedom Tower (foreground) with architect Daniel Libeskind background). Photo by Stephen Chernin/Getty Images News Collection/Getty Images Visual Arts Architecture Great Buildings An Introduction to Architecture Styles Theory History Famous Architects Famous Houses Skyscrapers Tips For Homeowners Art & Artists By Jackie Craven Art and Architecture Expert Doctor of Arts, University of Albany, SUNY M.S., Literacy Education, University of Albany, SUNY B.A., English, Virginia Commonwealth University Dr. Jackie Craven has over 20 years of experience writing about architecture and the arts. She is the author of two books on home decor and sustainable design. our editorial process Facebook Facebook Twitter Twitter Jackie Craven Updated July 03, 2019 A Master Plan is an overarching guide for a large project. It is based on a goal and a vision for how objectives can be achieved. Concepts begin with diagrams, become visually illustrated, but then what happens? Over 400 teams from around the world competed in 2002 for the job of Ground Zero Master Planner. Seven finalists were chosen to publicly present their designs, and the ultimate winner, Daniel Libeskind, presented an ambitious proposal. The photos in this gallery show the designs and major ideas that Studio Libeskind presented. Background View from the Harbor Image from World Trade Center Master Plan, December 2002 by Studio Libeskind. Photo handout by LMDC via Getty Images/Getty Images News/Getty Images (cropped) After terrorists struck New York City in 2001, attacking and destroying the World Trade Center area in Lower Manhattan, a hole was left—literally and figuratively. New York City workers almost immediately began to clean up what was known as "Ground Zero" as a shocked nation looked on. In November 2001, the NYS governor and the NYC mayor jointly created the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC) to lead the rebuilding in an open and inclusive manner. The next year was spent organizing, planning, "Listening to the City," and shaking the dust off disbelief. By July 2002, the LMDC had formulated six design concepts—the redevelopment of Ground Zero would be a plaza, square, triangle, garden, park, or promenade. Four to six tower skyscrapers would be the commercial area integrated within the memorial. The search for a Master Planner began with a design competition. Each submitted plan was to include a list of changing specifications, including these elements: a sacred, respectful memorial, well integrated with its surroundingsa museum of freedom and remembrancea restoration of the street grid to its previous state, before the Twin Towers were builta distinctive transit hub and a well-connected downtownsustainable design, “green building” technology, state-of-the-art safety andsecurity in design and engineering, and accessible design featuresa new skyline for Lower Manhattan, created to serve as "a powerful symbol of our nation’s strength and determination" Some wondered whether any winner of this competition would ultimately lose out. Others said simply that this is the way the business of architecture is done. Learn More: LMDC Progress Report 2001-20014 (PDF)Rebuilding Downtown New York City, Avery Library Research Guide, Columbia UniversityListening to the City, Civil Alliance to Rebuild Downtown New York, Regional Plan Association Sources: Principles and Revised Preliminary Blueprint for the Future of Lower Manhattan (PDF), Lower Manhattan Development Corporation; Planning Milestones, World Trade Center Site Overview, LMDC [accessed August 20, 2015] Memory Foundations, Initial Concept Daniel Libeskind Initial Sketch Idea from December 2002 Slide Presentation. Image © Studio Daniel Libeskind courtesy Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (cropped) The very first sketch of Studio Libeskind's slide presentation expressed the theme of architect Daniel Libeskind's Master Plan—"The Heart and the Soul: Memory Foundations" Roughly sketching out the 16 acre boundaries of the site, Libeskind made the destroyed WTC Twin Towers' footprints the central sacred space around which all redevelopment would take place. Libeskind was awed by the "engineering wonder" of the underground slurry walls that survived the trauma of the collapsed skyscrapers. They "stand as eloquent as the Constitution itself," said Libeskind, "asserting the durability of Democracy and the value of individual life." This would be the theme of his Master plan. The words on the slide presentation say what the sketch hints at: "The Memorial Site Exposes Ground ZeroAll the Way Down to the Bedrock FoundationsRevealing the Heroic Foundations of Democracy for All to See" Source: Introduction, Studio Daniel Libeskind, LMDC website [accessed August 21, 2015] Ground Zero Memorial Site World Trade Center Plan by Studio Libeskind, Ground Zero Memorial Site from December 2002 Slide Presentation. Image © Studio Daniel Libeskind courtesy Lower Manhattan Development Corporation The 2002 model of Daniel Libeskind's "Ground Zero Memorial Site" seems to show a more open pit than the Reflecting Absence memorial that became a reality. The architect's original design also included "an elevated walkway, a space for a Memorial promenade encircling the memorial site." Source: Introduction, Studio Daniel Libeskind, LMDC website [accessed August 21, 2015] Wedge of Light Concept Daniel Libeskind Sketch of Wedge of Light / Park of Heroes from December 2002 Slide Presentation. Image © Studio Daniel Libeskind courtesy Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (cropped) What turned out to be a very popular aspect of Studio Libeskind's Master Plan was what Daniel Libeskind called "Wedge of Light / Park of Heroes." "Each year on September 11th between the hours of 8:46 a.m.," Libeskind wrote, "when the first airplane hit and 10:28 a.m., when the second tower collapsed, the sun will shine without shadow, in perpetual tribute to altruism and courage." The slide presentation showed a geometric pattern, an axis of where sunlight spreads across the sacred grounds. The slide describes: "Sunlight on September 11Marking the PreciseTime of the Event." Source: Introduction, Studio Daniel Libeskind, LMDC website [accessed August 21, 2015] Wedge of Light World Trade Center Plan by Studio Libeskind, Wedge of Light Illustration from December 2002 Slide Presentation. Photo by Mario Tama Image © Studio Daniel Libeskind courtesy Lower Manhattan Development Corporation / Getty Images News / Getty Images (cropped) Daniel Libeskind pictorially showed his "Wedge of Light" concept in the 2002 Master Plan presentation.The graphic image was intriguing for its symbolism and almost immediately criticized for employing faulty math. Shortly after Libeskind's Master Plan was chosen in February 2003, architect Eli Attia questioned the reality of Libeskind's astral calculations. Since then, Santiago Calatrava changed the angle of Transportation Hub, and in 2015, when the Bjarke Ingels Group presented their BIG Plans for 2 World Trade Center, press releases were still describing the 2015 Site Plan with Libeskind's Wedge of Light Plaza as a reality. Learn More About the Wedge of Light: Architect Discusses the Wedge of Light (video) Shadows to Fall, Literally, Over 9/11 'Wedge of Light' by Edward Wyatt, The New York Times, May 1, 2003 Spotlight Is on Wedge Of Light, Symbol or Not by Edward Wyatt, The New York Times, May 2, 2003 Revealed: The Inside Story of the Last WTC Tower’s Design by Andrew Rice, Wired, June 9, 2015 Reasserting the Skyline Daniel Libeskind Skyline Sketch Idea from December 2002 Slide Presentation. Image © Studio Daniel Libeskind courtesy Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (cropped) A new skyline for New York City was a goal set early on by the stakeholder rebuilders of Ground Zero. Daniel Libeskind's 2002 proposal, "Life Victorious / Skyline," centered around the 2003 Plan for Freedom Tower, what Daniel Libeskind was calling a Vertical Garden of the World. The Master Plan proposed by the winning architect would reassert the skyline by having Freedom Tower at a symbolic 1776 feet and all of the other towers at progressively lower heights, spiraling to the ground level Memorial. The Curve of the Skyline Model of the Original World Trade Center Master Plan by Studio Libeskind December 2002 Slide Presentation. Photo by LMDC/Getty Images News/Getty Images (cropped) Daniel Libeskind's Master Plan created a protective circle around the sacred memorial space, with the elevated walkway completing the towers' declining heights that began with Tower 1's symbolic height of 1776 feet. Libeskind's Vertical World Gardens, his vision for Tower 1, became one of the 7 Buildings You Won't See at Ground Zero. By 2006, architect David Childs had redesigned Tower 1 but not the 2002 Master Plan. The September 2006 rendering of the new World Trade Center Towers showed the first tower at 1776 feet, just like Libeskind's original plan. Landscape Sketches Landscape Sketches of Ground Zero Master Plan from December 2002 Slide Presentation by Studio Libeskind. Image © Studio Daniel Libeskind courtesy Lower Manhattan Development Corporation Daniel Libeskind presented a Master Plan in December 2002 that was not only symbolic and nationalistic, but also personal. " I arrived by ship to New York as a teenager, an immigrant, and like millions of others before me, my first sight was the Statue of Liberty and the amazing skyline of Manhattan. I have never forgotten that sight or what it stands for. This is what this project is all about." Libeskind's Freedom Tower was designed to emulate the Statue of Liberty, with a shard of glass rising toward the heavens like Liberty's torch. The Landscape Sketches pictured the America that Libeskind had grown to cherish. Source: Introduction, Studio Daniel Libeskind, LMDC website [accessed August 21, 2015] September 11th Place and Museum Entrance September 11th Place and Museum Entrance from 2002 Slide Presentation of World Trade Center Master Plan by Studio Libeskind. Image © Studio Daniel Libeskind courtesy Lower Manhattan Development Corporation Daniel Libeskind's Master Plan was chosen in February 2003. Many aspect to the architect's design became simplified over the years, including the entrance to the National 9/11 Memorial Museum, which opened in May 2014. Ground Zero Memorial Site World Trade Center Plan by Studio Libeskind, Ground Zero Memorial Site from 2002 Slide Presentation. Image © Studio Daniel Libeskind courtesy Lower Manhattan Development Corporation Slide 17 of 31, part way through Daniel Libeskind's December 2002 Master Plan presentation, depicts the Ground Zero Memorial Site. Libeskind called his design plan Memory Foundation. "Libeskind designs buildings that feature sharp angles, glass ceilings, and slanted walls," architecture critic Paul Goldberger has said, "and then he describes them as if they were the inevitable result of his patriotic and optimistic instincts, and as down-home as Colonial Williamsburg." The December 2002 presentation narrowed the competition down to two: Daniel Libeskind's Memory Foundations and THINK's World Cultural Towers. Studio Libeskind's Master Plan was chosen in February 2003. Sources: slide 17 of 31, Team Studio Daniel Libeskind, LMDC website; Urban Warriors by Paul Goldberger, The New Yorker, September 15, 2003; Innovative Design Study, The Plan for Lower Manhattan, Lower Manhattan Development Corporation [accessed August 21, 2015] View from the World Financial Center, February 2003 Plan View From the World Financial Center from February 2003 Slide Presentation. Photo of LMDC Handout by Getty Images/Getty Images News/Getty Images (cropped) The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation presented another slide show for the public, as Libeskind was already beginning to modify his design. The Selected Design for the WTC Site as of February 2003 included the graphic shown here, seemingly a slightly different vision than the Ground Zero Memorial Site presented just weeks before. Years have passed and the Master Plan has been revised, but has the vision survived? How close did the design come to what was built? For sure, the idea of a large grassy area shown in this illustration didn't make it to the final design, but Libeskind's vision can be seen everywhere. Architects have to choose their battles.