Three vastly different designs for the rebuilding of the World Trade Center, one emphasizing tall towers, another an excavated memorial site and a third a large public garden, appear to be receiving the greatest support in public discussions about the future of the site and of Lower Manhattan.
The three plans were created, respectively, by Norman Foster, Daniel Libeskind and Peterson Littenberg Architects. They have garnered the greatest number of favorable comments in an Internet forum sponsored by officials involved in the rebuilding plans, in independent discussions and reviews by civic groups that are closely following the rebuilding, and in responses to a citywide poll conducted by The New York Times. While support for the three plans is common to all of those forums, and the three received a significantly higher percentage of favorable responses than any of the other six new designs unveiled last month, the basis of each plan's popularity appears to be as unique as its own new vision for Lower Manhattan.
While rebuilding officials have sought public opinion, they are not bound to follow it. The final plan for the site will be driven largely by the cost and feasibility of any design, including the question of adding commercial buildings in stages rather than all at once. The Foster plan, featuring irregularly shaped twin towers that meet at several points along their height, has clearly captured the imagination of many people who would like the new construction to resemble the original towers. The Libeskind plan has received widespread support for its stirring memorial to the victims of the Sept. 11 attack. The plan calls for the excavated, seven-acre 'bathtub' of the original site, some 90 feet below ground level and enclosed by concrete slurry walls holding back the Hudson River, to be left open as the site for the memorial.
The Peterson Littenberg plan has received attention for its vast public gardens and its tree-lined promenade, extending south to Battery Park and together making up one of the largest public green spaces downtown. The failure of any of the three plans to collect significantly more support than the others could make for difficult decisions by officials of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation and of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the land.
Rebuilding officials have said that they hope to choose one or two architects by next month to work on a final design for a memorial, a transportation facility and street plans. But they have also said that they oppose mixing components of several plans. Only some of the comments made so far have been disclosed by rebuilding officials or others.
A review of 834 comments or queries sent to the development corporation's Web site over the last week showed that about one-third of the people responding noted a preference for at least one of the nine plans. Among those, the design by Foster & Partners was favored by about 25 percent, while the plans by Studio Daniel Libeskind and Peterson Littenberg Architecture and Urban Design each received favorable comment from about 18 percent. A fourth design, by United Architects, followed closely, gathering about 14 percent of the favorable comments.
Those responses, released by the development corporation after a Freedom of Information request, represent only one-third of the 2,500 responses submitted to the development corporation's Web site since the plans were released. In addition, roughly 3,000 comment cards filled out at the exhibition of the designs at the World Financial Center are being tallied and are not available, said Matthew Higgins, a spokesman for the development corporation. But those initial findings echo other results. The Municipal Art Society welcomed more than 300 people at two Imagine New York workshops this month to consider the plans. Holly M. Leicht, a director of the workshops, said that participants clearly favored the Libeskind, Foster and Peterson Littenberg designs.
'We probably heard the most support for the Libeskind proposal because there was a sense that the memorial is such a central portion of the redevelopment,' Ms. Leicht said. 'The participants thought it had by far the most powerful treatment of the memorial space.'
Supporters of the Foster plan liked both its towers, which Mr. Foster has described as 'kissing towers,' and the significant amount of green space included in the plan, which extends the open space near the footprints of the original twin towers westward on a platform over West Street.
The Peterson Littenberg plan was also favored for the memorial gardens at its center, and for its perceived contributions to street life. 'But that was often tempered by concerns about the architecture,' which many people described as unexciting, Ms. Leicht said.
Similar results were found in a New York Times poll, though the numbers that named a specific plan were very small. In the poll, about two-thirds of the 1,003 city residents questioned said they were paying 'a lot' or 'some' attention to the designs released last month. Asked an open-ended question about which proposal they thought would be best, only 56 people specified one of the nine, with the Libeskind and Foster designs each receiving 17 votes