Other interesting articles about...

Architect's 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 a streetcar.

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 space.

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 sketches.

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.

Associated Press Writer

top Go to "Gaudí News" main page Go to homepage