95-year-old plans pushed for ground zero development
NEW YORK, January 21, 2003-- Decades before the World Trade Center was conceived,
a revolutionary architect drew plans for a rocket-like skyscraper to be
built on that very site.
Now, a movement is growing
to include his ideas in the redevelopment. Antoni Gaudi, who changed the
face of Barcelona, Spain, in the early 1900s with buildings inspired by
organic shapes like snail shells, honeycombs and ocean waves, sketched
a design in 1908 for a New York hotel that was never built.
The drawing called for a cluster
of steel and concrete parabolic towers at varying heights surrounding
a central tower that would stand 1,048 feet tall, according to Paul Laffoley,
the Boston architect leading the effort to give the concept a second chance.
"It's like resurrecting
something that should have existed in the past," Laffoley said.
Laffoley intends to enter the
design, which resembles a bunch of bullets or inverted wax drippings,
in the international memorial competition that begins this spring. The
agency in charge of rebuilding the site says a plan for the memorial will
be chosen by Sept. 11 of this year, the second anniversary of the attacks
that killed nearly 2,800 people.
Inside the tip of the main
tower would be a sphere of empty space and then a 412-foot cavern where
each victim would be commemorated. Gaudi had wanted to fill that space
with slots for each U.S. president, leaving enough room to last until
the year 3000.
Art historians, architects
and Gaudi enthusiasts are behind the effort to push the plans for inclusion
in the master redevelopment scheme.
Laffoley acknowledged that
the design might not exactly fit the memorial contest requirements, because
it also provides for commercial uses, such as hotels or office space,
in the smaller towers. A separate plan for office space and other functions
is being chosen from nine designs unveiled last month.
No matter, says Laffoley, who
insists that Gaudi's design would cut through the political and territorial
wrangling involved in rebuilding the site by drawing on its storied past.
"It's 77 years since Gaudi
died _ a lot of the other proposals are literal ego trips, but here is
a way that everyone can be involved in a historical project from around
the world," Laffoley said.
Gaudi does not fit neatly into
any architectural category, but he is often associated with the modernist
movement that dominated Barcelona at the beginning of the twentieth century.
He was so influential there
that the city dedicated 2002 as the Year of Gaudi to commemorate the 150th
anniversary of his birth in 1852. Gaudi died in 1926 when he was hit by
He is known for creating unusual
shapes, curved lines and vivid color, and is considered an architectural
genius for his ability to combine artistic flair with technical structure.
Many of his trademark buildings in Barcelona incorporated tiles made from
broken dishes and other found objects.
Laffoley suggested pieces of
debris saved from the trade center rubble piles might be used in such
a way with the Gaudi plans for the New York building.
Laffoley said Gaudi loved New
York, and designed the hotel for the newly bustling lower Manhattan neighborhood.
At that time, Wall Street was a busy financial center and landmarks like
the 792-foot tall Woolworth building, completed in 1913, were being planned.
It is not known why Gaudi's
plans were never realized, but Laffoley theorized that developers who
asked for the designs might not have liked the idea of so much unusable
In Barcelona, Gaudi also was
working on the famed Casa Mila apartment house, completed in 1911. Similarities
with that and his landmark Sagrada Familia church are evident in the hotel
Barcelona artist Marc Mascort
i Boix will discuss the idea of reviving the sketches during a panel Thursday
evening at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.
By SARA KUGLER
Associated Press Writer