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September 14, 2010
by Rick Bell FAIA Executive Director AIA New York
Chris-Ward-090810-003

Christopher O. Ward.

Rick Bell

Christopher O. Ward, executive director of the Port Authority of NY and NJ, spoke about New York, Lower Manhattan, and the World Trade Center site at a breakfast of the Association for a Better New York (ABNY) on 09.08.10. After an introduction by ABNY Chairman Bill Rudin, who noted that, “Lower Manhattan’s commercial base has been expanding outside of its traditional financial service focus,” Ward complimented ABNY saying that “a better New York is a clarion call, simple and elegant.”

With the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the minds of the more than 500 people attending at Cipriani Wall Street, Ward spoke of the importance of infrastructure, prior politicization of the design process, and current progress at the site. Anecdotes about stumbling blocks and the “fantastic” collaboration between the Port Authority and Silverstein Properties enlivened Ward’s presentation. He described the memorial by Michael Arad, AIA, (“a memorial of incredible emotional and engineering complexity”) to be open by the 10th anniversary next year, and equally detailed the Memorial Pavilion by Snøhetta, the Memorial Museum by Davis Brody Bond Aedas, the transit hub by Santiago Calatrava, FAIA, and the rising office towers by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and Fumihiko Maki, Hon. FAIA. “We have turned those renderings into a construction site,” Ward declared, “defined by 2,000 workers, memorial waterfalls clad in black granite, the first of the trees being planted, by underground infrastructure, and the arches of the transit hub.”

BIM modeling allowed for both the integration of concurrent project components and anticipated potential coordination problems. “At the end of the day,” Ward stated, “this is a construction project, and has to be thought of this way.” The effort to depoliticize the discourse was aided by changing the name of the site’s tallest building from Freedom Tower to One World Trade Center, attempting to lose “the monumentalism and rancor that marked the early days after 9/11 — New Yorkers needed a new downtown, not a political message.”

Concluding his remarks, Ward stated, “Our work is far from over. But our vision for downtown is finally about something else, about renewing our conversation with downtown. It will be what we make of it, not a political agenda about a new structure a few blocks away. It will be quite simply about all of us being New Yorkers — that will be downtown.”

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