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Architects face WTC concept challenge

New York, Sept. 27 (Reuters): Some of the world’s best known architects were given one of the world’s most difficult jobs yesterday — coming up with concepts for the site where the twin towers of the World Trade Center once stood.

In a bow to public rejection of earlier proposals for a memorial park to the September 11 victims surrounded by tall buildings and commercial enterprises, officials said the amount of commercial space on the site would be reduced.

Officials of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, which is overseeing the project, said its goal was for the six chosen teams of architects and planners to present their plans to the public at the end of the year.

“Ultimately, the teams will help us develop a truly compelling design for the World Trade Center site, a grand and majestic vision that inspires awe while respectfully memorialising the lives lost,” LMDC chairman John Whitehead said at a news conference to announce the designers.

The teams represent 27 architectural firms from 5 countries — the US, Britain, Germany, Japan and the Netherlands. Among them are the designers of the new Reichstag in Berlin, Getty Center in Los Angeles and Yokohama International Port Terminal in Japan.

An emotional public debate has been stirred over a memorial for the 2,800 New York victims of the hijacked plane attacks a year ago that leveled the towers.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey owns the 16 acre site and real estate developer Larry Silverstein owns rights to office and commercial space.

Many relatives of the victims consider the site a graveyard or cemetery because the remains of as many as 800 killed in the inferno and collapse of the buildings may never be positively identified. Officials said the design teams were being asked to incorporate cultural institutions and commercial, residential and office space in their plans to rebuild the streets and skyline of lower Manhattan.

They said the teams were to be given two sets of parameters — one would incorporate the original 11 million square feet of office space but not on the actual site of the attack and the other would incorporate commercial space, although reduced.

“The amount of commercial space will be at the low end, substantially reduced,” said LMDC board member Roland Betts.

No decisions on what to rebuild at the site are expected until next year, but yesterday’s announcement moved the process a step closer to completion.

Any construction above ground was not expected for three to five years and the design and building of a memorial was a separate process that would be integrated with the rebuilding, officials said.

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