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THINK New York: A Ground Zero Diary

The emotional and complex legacy of September 11, 2001, made the efforts to rebuild the World Trade Center site an unprecedented challenge for the architecture profession. What ensued at Ground Zero was to be an amalgam of programmatic, urbanistic, design and political elements, produced in a charged atmosphere--with the world watching. This book chronicles the work of one team of designers. THINK, a collaboration of four distinguished principals: Shigeru Ban, Ken Smith, Frederic Schwartz and Rafael Viñoly, was a finalist in the master planning competition. From each designer’s immediate response to the loss of the Twin Towers, to the team's work for the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation’s Innovative Design Study, the book covers the eighteen-month period between the attacks and the selection of a master plan in February 2003.

Operating under the microscope of intense media scrutiny and an ambiguous set of constituencies that made up the collective client, THINK presented a series of options as to how one can approach 21st century urbanism in the American context. From concern for the pedestrian's experience to the need for restoring the southern portion of the powerful New York skyline, THINK had to navigate between the request for a master plan concept and the public's thirst for potent architectural imagery. The time frame could not have been more compact, nor the conditions less clear--who would pay for the project and who would make the final decision on design? Nonetheless, THINK worked assiduously to produce options to help improve and repair Lower Manhattan.

Perhaps best known for the striking towers in their proposal for the World Cultural Center, THINK also prepared multiple design solutions: the verdant, elevated landscape of Sky Park and the impressive scale of the Great Room, among others. For the first time all of these designs are presented in detail, including some of the short-lived ideas that did not progress to more advanced stages of development. Seen together, these drawings, models and ideas give a full picture of the rich and demanding processes architects face when tackling large-scale urban projects, where culture, politics, economics and design intersect and make us reconsider the possibilities for New York and other major cities.