Intersections: Building the Soul of New York City

Architect Daniel Libeskind on Ideals Behind Ground Zero Plan

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Listen: <b>Web Extra:</b> Libeskind Discusses the Mission of Architecture, His Inspiration to Build

Daniel Libeskind

Daniel Libeskind © Studio Daniel Libeskind. hide caption

toggle caption © Studio Daniel Libeskind.
A rendering of Libeskind's master plan for the World Trade Center site.

A rendering of Libeskind's master plan for the World Trade Center site. © Archimation hide caption

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On July 4, a granite cornerstone was laid down in lower Manhattan for Freedom Tower, marking the beginning of a new structure for the former World Trade site. Freedom Tower is the symbolic focus of the design, the work of architect Daniel Libeskind, who won a competition to design the master plan for ground zero in February 2003. For the final installment of Morning Edition's Intersections series, NPR's Brian Naylor spoke with Libeskind about his inspirations for rebuilding the site.

The original design has been modified by architect David Childs, but Libeskind's signature touch remains — a spire mirroring the Statue of Liberty. Lady Liberty's torch welcomed Libeskind, a Polish immigrant to America, in 1959, and the imagery stayed with him.

"It points to the skyline, and its power and resolve declares [New York] the city of freedom, the city of liberty," Libeskind says.

Libeskind, who was a young architecture student in New York when the World Trade Center went up in the 1960s, didn't do much research before entering the competition to rebuild the site. Mostly, he read — the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and iconic American authors like Herman Melville and poet Walt Whitman, who celebrated the working people of New York.

"The person going to work in a shop somewhere, and someone cleaning the street — that's what New York is about," he says. "It's about people who come here to find opportunities, to work and better themselves."

Libeskind calls what he's doing at ground zero a cultural response to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. "Simply by seeing the site as a site of liberty… that thought gave me the idea of the new community of buildings that stand around it," he says. "It's not just a memorial…[it's] a new composition that is very much related to the spirit of what New York is about."



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