Message - Re: WTC, Basic Planning Issues

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Posted by  Paul Malo on September 17, 2002 at 17:59:17:

In Reply to:  Re: WTC, Basic Planning Issues posted by Issi on September 17, 2002 at 15:05:00:

My hand is up--can I speak?

Here's another characteristic of Manhattan to be factored in:
much transport is by taxi cab, and users want convenient access to cabs at multiple points, as close to wherever they may be when concluding their business. This would argue for bringing vehicles into the sixteen-acre site--but not necessarily on the surface. Grand Central Terminal (one of the city's major railroad stations) was designed for taxi cabs to have a special access road at the second story level, reached by a ramp up the mall on Park Avenue. The Waldorf-Astoria Hotel on Park Avenue has a splendid underground vehicular lobby, where crystal chandeliers light arrival of guests in taxis and private cars. (A sloping site here, as at the WTC, makes access easy).

Regarding the volume of pedestrian traffic, it's erratic, as office workers tend to have similar work schedules, crowding thoroughfares a few times a day. At other times downtown streets can be rather bleak, since most business people take cabs rather than walk. The WTC Plaza was never adequately activated, except at peak hours. The place was grim on rainy, windy days--and scary at night. (This is my impression, but I can't testify from personal use).

One of my partners, the late Ray Affleck, designed one of the first "megastructures" that appeared as a new urban model back in the 'sixties. I was impressed then, and continue to be, with the synergistic quality of this multi-use, inwardly oriented complex in downtown Montreal, Canada. My gut instinct is to go in this direction with the WTC, creating an intense, internal life on the site.

The problem, however, was recognized by Ray himself shortly have the superblock was built. By being inwardly oriented, it took life from the streets, presenting hostile and bleak exteriors. I see Place Bonaventure appearing on some "most hated" lists these days. Of course, the 'sixties was the time of "chipboard architecture"--when grim, grey concrete behemoths were consider "muscular" and '"powerful."

Everything I have seen so far proposed for the WTC site seems to be merely a PLAN extruded upwards into generic office towers. This is Modern--Corb's notion of the plan being genesis of the form--and it is the professional urban planmer's mentality, coloring "zones" on two-dimensional maps as the basis for design. But cities are really complex sectional organisms, particularly a city like New York. Why have we never yet seen any sectional strategy proposed for this development?

Ray's project was basically a sectional strategy--with different functions layered, the superblock topped with housing (a hotel, actually) surrounding a beautiful garden court open to the sky.
Disregarding the dated Brutalist style, Place Bonaventure still serves as an object lesson.

Ray, where are you, now that we need you?

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