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Old Posted Sep 5, 2004, 1:55 AM
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Please read the whole article, exciting news indeed.

September 5, 2004
The New New York Skyline
Source: NYTIMES
By NICOLAI OUROUSSOFF

THE skyline is back.

For the last three years, our collective focus has been on ground zero. Meanwhile, some of the world's most prominent architects have been quietly pressing ahead with plans that will remake the city's skyline on a level not seen since the World Trade Center was built in the 1970's. The most remarkable expression of that shift is a growing list of stunning residential towers designed by celebrated talents like Richard Meier, Santiago Calatrava, Christian Portzamparc and Enrique Norten. But it also includes visions of corporate gluttony: colossal mega-structures that are essentially hybrids of residential skyscrapers and suburban office parks. And it coincides with the slow but inevitable erosion of the boundaries that have defined the edges of the Manhattan skyline for a century.

For New Yorkers who still feel stirrings of nostalgia for the prewar city, such sweeping changes are apt to provoke mild hysteria. But cities derive their meaning from the influx of new ideas, and the flowering of the new skyline reaffirms that New York's creative energy has not yet been entirely spent.

A more legitimate reason for anxiety is that the majority of the towers built in New York in recent memory have been so dismal. Manhattan's skyline was once a monument to the relentless force of modernity, but for decades now the city's reputation as a center of architectural experimentation has been losing ground to London, Barcelona, Beijing, and Shanghai � cities whose civic leaders seem less frightened of the future. The best of the current crop of projects suggest an effort, however fitful, to break out of that creative malaise.

The roots of that malaise predate Sept. 11. They can be traced back to the late 1970's � to the fall of late Modernism and the subsequent rise of a view of history that often favored a mindless repetition of the past over confronting the anxieties of an uncertain future. What it mostly produced were buildings whose faux historical d�cor was used to cloak generic development formulas.

The low point may have come during the final year of Rudolph W. Giuliani's administration, when the Department of City Planning unveiled a proposal that would have forced most new building to conform to the scale of existing neighborhoods. Dubbed "uniform bulk," the proposal was conceived in response to projects like Donald Trump's 72-story residential high-rise at First Avenue between 47th and 48th Streets. The plan's intent was to force developers to respect the city's existing historical fabric. What it would have produced is a deadening uniformity, particularly in the skyline.

Fortunately, the plan was rejected after furious objections by local real estate developers. Meanwhile, Mr. Trump's tower was built and the sky didn't fall. Designed by Costas Kondylis, the building's slender rectangular form could not be more benign. Its taut, tinted glass exterior plays off the blue-green glass of the United Nations Secretariat building and the repetitive grid of windows that decorate the twin 38-story towers of United Nations Plaza. Together, they form a graceful composition of transparent and reflective surfaces.


As it turns out, the future of the city's skyline may have as much to do with the increasingly cosmopolitan tastes of the city's affluent classes as with zoning issues. The first projects to capitalize on that trend were Richard Meier's Perry Street towers, completed in 2002. Mr. Meier's pristine glass-and-steel designs, which look out over the Hudson River esplanade, were ridiculed for construction problems and leaky roofs. But they also set a model of skyline architecture as a work of art, to be collected by the city's rich. A third tower a block away on Charles Street, which is currently under design, is a luxurious twist on the old Modernist notion of gesamtkunstwerk � an environment conceived as a total work of art. In this version, Mr. Meier will design the interiors and furniture as well as the building itself.

That model has been pushed to its extreme with a new plan by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava for a building that would rise at 80 South Street, near the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge. The tower, which may be approved by the city planning department later this month, would be anchored by an 835-foot-tall concrete core, with 12 four-story cubes cantilevered off its sides, each of which would house a single 10,000-square-foot apartment. The design is reminiscent of a well-known proposal from the 1970's: the Japanese Metabolist towers, never built, in which entire housing blocks sprouted out of vertical columns like the branches of a tree. In Mr. Calatrava's hands, however, that vision is far more elegant. The apartments appear as crystalline glass town houses floating above the city. Their beauty stems as much from their aura of poetic isolation as from their structural purity.

But what's mind-boggling about the scheme are the economics that make it possible. Like Mr. Meier's Charles Street tower, each of Mr. Calatrava's apartments is conceived as a self-contained urban refuge, a $30,000,000 prestige object for the global elites. If they like, Mr. Calatrava will even custom design each of the apartments to suit them.


This notion � that architecture is a luxury to be consumed, like an Herm�s bag or a private jet � may soon transform the skyline as much as the expansion of American corporate power did a generation ago. Several blocks west of the Calatrava tower, Frank Gehry is working on a luxury high-rise for the Ratner Development Company, the same developer he is teamed with to design the proposed Nets stadium in Brooklyn.

Whatever the interiors are like, the public will most likely get the best view. Mr. Gehry's 75-story tower � which could not be shown here, because it is still in the earliest stages of design � is conceived as a series of undulating glass panels that hang down over the building's structural frame like flowing drapery. The curtain-like surfaces split apart at various points, then peel open at the top to create an almost classical crown. In its way, the tower is as elaborate as the nearby Woolworth Building, whose soaring neo-gothic stone facades set a standard of aesthetic excess and visual splendor nearly a century ago.

Even the building's location reflects the increasing value of such architectural status symbols. Historically, the reason the bulk of Manhattan's towers were concentrated near Wall Street and in Midtown was because the bedrock there is especially solid. Both Mr. Gehry's and Mr. Calatrava's towers would be built in an area just north of Wall Street, where the bedrock is less firm. To support them, engineers will have to drive pylons more than 150 feet into the earth, adding millions to construction costs.


Such considerations no longer seem to matter. The celebrated French architect Christian Portzamparc and Gary Handel, of New York, are currently completing a design for a luxury residential tower farther north at 28th Street and Lexington Avenue, overlooking Madison Square. The tower's faceted glass form will have the sharp edges of a cut diamond.

And in Harlem, similar projects are being used as tools for urban renewal. The Mexican architect Enrique Norten, for example, is now working on a proposal for an office, hotel and residential tower at 125th Street and Park Avenue. The structure's office space is a solid five-story container that rests on the more delicate glass-enclosed base of the two-story retail space, creating a palpable sense of compression. The hotel and residential tower rises another 38 stories above this base, overlooking the elevated tracks that run along Park Avenue.

The tower's design is meant to evoke the energy of the passing trains. Slender horizontal steel bands give shape to the facade's exterior, which bulges slightly at its center, as if the building were taking a deep breath of air. A series of thin, fin-like columns carry the tower down to the ground. Seen from Manhattan, the structure will conjure a fragment of Midtown that has somehow splintered off � an apt metaphor for a building that is being seen as a symbol of Harlem's rapid gentrification.

Taken as a whole, these projects represent a level of architectural creativity that the skyline hasn't seen in a generation. Despite their range of styles, their lightness suggests a more ephemeral city, a skyline whose delicacy would stand in sharp contrast to the muscular upward thrust of older skyscrapers. Just as important, they refuse to conform to the period styles of their neighbors. Instead, they offer a more sophisticated view of context, one that acknowledges that the city's beauty stems from the frictions that occur when competing visions of urbanity are allowed to coexist.


But they also connect to a tradition of social striving that may not have been so overt since the days of the robber barons. In their aesthetic purity, they speak of a world removed from the little miseries of everyday life. If they differ in spirit from the Vanderbilt mansions of the past, it is only in that they promise to be more conspicuous. They are paradises for aesthetes.

Not all the new high-rises are so delicately conceived. The new corporate paradise, by comparison, is more utilitarian, and brutal, in its expression. The demands of global corporations � what were once quaintly called multinationals � have created a new kind of superstructure, as imposing in its way as the commercial Superblocks that were one of the most maligned clich�s of the 1970's. The enormous floor plates of these hulking new structures � some will stretch to the equivalent of two city blocks � are made to accommodate the need for increasingly open, free-flowing work spaces.

The most visible example is Bloomberg Media's new headquarters, designed by Cesar Pelli and currently under construction between 58th and 59th streets and Lexington and Third Avenues. Covering an entire city block, the building is shaped by the collision between the expanding scale of global corporations and the immense value of Manhattan air rights. Rising 85 feet, the base is a solid block of office space, with a womb-like oval atrium carved out of its core to allow public access to ground-floor retail shops. The offices will be vast, loft-like spaces, lined with hundreds of employees hunched over their computer screens. Designed for maximum efficiency, these spaces are the information age's answer to Ford's assembly line.

The building's exterior steps back as it rises, eventually forming a single residential tower along Lexington that will allow the developer to exploit the value of the air rights above the offices. But despite the public pretensions of its atrium, what the project resembles most is a suburban office park plunked down on the island of Manhattan. Its reflective glass envelope is the architectural equivalent of a generic wrapper.

By comparison, a similar proposal for Goldman Sachs at the northern edge of Battery Park City has the virtue of clarity. Designed by Harry Cobb of Pei Cobb Freed, the tower's 18-story trapezoidal base will include gargantuan 75,000-square-foot floor plates � significantly larger than those on the Bloomberg building, and nearly twice the size of those in the former World Trade Center � to accommodate the hordes of Goldman Sachs employees. A residential tower is set on top of this base, its curved facade overlooking the Hudson. But along West Street, the structure is a vast 55-story expanse of glass, its uniform surface interrupted only by a single vertical slot. The distinction between the private world of the tenants above and the corporate masses below has essentially been obliterated. (Employees, one assumes, can now bed down peacefully above their corporate masters.)

This hybrid formula is now being adopted by the Department of City Planning, which sees it as a way to keep big corporations from fleeing for the suburbs. In its current zoning guidelines for the Hudson Yards, for example, the city agency is planning to propose the creation of two development corridors � one along 11th Avenue, the other extending west from Ninth Avenue � parts of which could accommodate structures with footprints between 40,000 and 80,000 square feet, or two entire city blocks. The plan, which will be presented to the city for certification later this month, will also create setbacks for residential towers to allow developers to take advantage of the valuable air rights.

The scale of such projects alone could significantly alter the city's character. Visually, they are reminiscent of the Metropolis imagined by the architectural renderer Hugh Ferriss at the end of the 1920's: a city of mountain-like angular surfaces so dense and opaque it seems to be chiseled out of stone. At their most poetic, they evoke primordial caves illuminated by a few stray rays of light.

But the projects also reflect a deeper fear: that the urban pull of Manhattan is losing its ongoing battle with suburbia. That fear is rekindled whenever corporate executives threaten to escape to the safe, open spaces of Westchester County, Jersey City and Stamford, Conn. In recent years, it has been exacerbated by both the spiraling costs of Manhattan real estate and the insecurities caused by Sept. 11. The response is the creation of a kind architectural mongrel: a view of urbanity that is rooted in suburban notions of isolation and conformity.

The greatest threat to Manhattan's identity, however, may no longer be the suburbanization of the city but the urbanization of the outlying boroughs. And by far the most ambitious proposals for a new urban skyline today are in Queens. Together, they stretch along more than two miles of the East River waterfront, creating a dense ribbon of towers that could one day rival Manhattan's.

Of these, the design by the Miami-based Arquitectonica is the furthest along. Dubbed Queens West, the project would transform 22 acres of abandoned waterfront warehouses into a playful mix of high-rise and low-rise buildings, commercial development and waterfront parks. The project's residential towers, some of which would reach 45 stories, are lined up along the esplanade. The design would fit nicely in a department at Target: hip, affordable versions of high-concept buildings. The waterfront towers are a variety of heights and sizes, like boxes playfully stacked on top of each other. What's most disturbing about the project, in fact, is not its scale but its d�cor. In a bizarre effort to break down the composition's visual scale, the buildings are decorated with crisscrossing patterns of window mullions in a variety of colors: burgundy, blue, green and yellow. Together, the surfaces look like Scottish plaid.

Just to the south, the Los Angeles-based firm Morphosis is working on a less conventional housing development originally conceived as part of New York's bid for the 2012 Olympic games. It would include a series of low-rise housing complexes whose sinuous forms trace the water's edge and frame one side of a lush public park. Three rectangular towers anchor the complex's northern edge.

The development's snake-like forms vaguely evoke the work of the British group Archigram � the 1970's firm that once proposed the creation of machine-like "Walking Cities." But in urban planning terms, the proposal is a throwback to Le Corbusier's 1952 Unit� d'Habitation in Marseille, a grid of apartments raised up on columns and set in a vast park � a rational antidote to the chaos and congestion of Manhattan. As such, the Morphosis project represents a kind of revenge by the great Swiss Modernist, who was famously tossed aside in the competition to design the United Nations headquarters nearly 50 years ago.

Morphosis' vision may soon be joined by Richard Rogers's design for Silvercup Studios at the foot of the 59th Street bridge, whose symmetrical high-tech towers are a more muscular take on similar themes. Mr. Rogers is best-known for his design of high-tech Modernist structures like Lloyd's bank in London and as the co-architect of the Pompidou Center in Paris. In Manhattan, he is currently working on a waterfront esplanade that would extend from the tip of Battery Park to the Manhattan Bridge.

It is only as one begins to consider these Queens developments as a single mass that their effect becomes clear. In obliterating the distinction between vertical and horizontal cities that once separated Manhattan from the outlying boroughs, the new skyline will shift the city's center. The East River will essentially be re-imagined as a spine, binding Manhattan to Brooklyn and Queens rather than defining Manhattan's outer limits.


Such a shift would mean the lowering of one of the city's most rigid psychological barriers. It is apt to raise other fears: the steady erosion of Manhattan's primacy as a center of cultural production, the fleeing of the city's creative class to Brooklyn, and the transformation of Manhattan into an enclave for the rich. But it could also reinvigorate the city's architecture. Instability is good for culture. And just as the Manhattan grid embodies the rational order of modernity, its skyline has always symbolized the urge to break free of those creative constraints. To regain its ascendancy, the city must summon that spirit of imaginative freedom once again.
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Last edited by NYguy; Mar 17, 2009 at 8:08 PM.
     
     
  #2  
Old Posted Sep 5, 2004, 2:13 AM
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Great article. Looks like another wave of amazing new proposals is headed in NYC's direction. This boom has not yet begun to fight!
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Old Posted Sep 5, 2004, 2:23 AM
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While it is too early to show renderings for the Gehry proposal, demolition has begun at the site.

Here?s some of the many buildings mentioned in the article:



Enrique Norten; Harlem Park, 125th Street and Park Avenue



Cesar Pelli; Beacon Court, 731 Lexington Avenue at 58th Street



Richard Meier; 165 Charles Street at West Street



Harry Cobb; Goldman Sachs headquarters, West and Vesey Streets



Santiago Calatrava; 80 South Street at Fletcher Street



Arquitectonica's proposal for Queens West is a 22-acre mixed-use project that includes 45-story residential towers along a waterfront esplanade facing Manhattan.



A housing development in Queens being designed by Morphosis Architects of Los Angeles would trace the East River shoreline.



The Morphosis housing development, at left, was originally conceived as part of New York's bid for the 2012 Olympics.
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Last edited by STERNyc; Sep 5, 2004 at 2:46 AM.
     
     
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Old Posted Sep 5, 2004, 5:51 AM
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Wow, awesome news. Very Wonderful to have so many great architects and designs for new skyscrapers in New York.

I would like to see the tower that Portzamparc is designing, is there any other news on that one yet?
     
     
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Old Posted Sep 5, 2004, 7:28 AM
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Quote:
But despite the public pretensions of its atrium, what the [Bloomberg Tower] project resembles most is a suburban office park plunked down on the island of Manhattan. Its reflective glass envelope is the architectural equivalent of a generic wrapper.
Ouch.
     
     
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Old Posted Sep 5, 2004, 10:48 AM
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This is off-topic but any news about the new supplemental building for the UN Secretariat?
     
     
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Old Posted Sep 5, 2004, 12:49 PM
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that's right, OUCH.
NYC architecture critics have really sharpened their claws, I like it. Its definitely good for the city cause it demands better designs. These scrapers will really alter the skyline. I compare NYC to London in that both cities are really taking risks with current proposals. Both cities are very rich in early era architecture. I wonder how well old and new architecture will mix in both cities. The modern structures proposed in NYC are great, but I hope it will complement the skyline rather than compete with it.
     
     
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Old Posted Sep 5, 2004, 2:12 PM
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So I guess its fair to say that there was a height increase and that therell be a 22 storey commercial base topped by a 53 storey residential tower. A couple of us at WNY were already speculating this. I wonder now if increased floor heights and as mentioned the ornamental crown will near a 1000 foot height. That would be amazing and would counterbalance whatever happens at the WTC.
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Old Posted Sep 5, 2004, 2:15 PM
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To give an idea of how the new tower might look, Frank Gehrys unbuilt NYTIMES Headquarters:

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Old Posted Sep 5, 2004, 3:01 PM
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A 75 Storey Gehry tower...can't wait to see it. It will probably be quite spectacular.
     
     
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Old Posted Sep 5, 2004, 4:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by STERNyc
Several blocks west of the Calatrava tower, Frank Gehry is working on a luxury high-rise for the Ratner Development Company, the same developer he is teamed with to design the proposed Nets stadium in Brooklyn.

Whatever the interiors are like, the public will most likely get the best view. Mr. Gehry's 75-story tower which could not be shown here, because it is still in the earliest stages of design is conceived as a series of undulating glass panels that hang down over the building's structural frame like flowing drapery. The curtain-like surfaces split apart at various points, then peel open at the top to create an almost classical crown. In its way, the tower is as elaborate as the nearby Woolworth Building, whose soaring neo-gothic stone facades set a standard of aesthetic excess and visual splendor nearly a century ago.
I'm so excited about this new Ghery tower...it sounds like it could be even greater than the Calatrava tower a few blocks away....Great news!
     
     
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Old Posted Sep 5, 2004, 4:25 PM
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Another look at the site of the new Gehry tower...


     
     
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Old Posted Sep 5, 2004, 4:29 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by STERNyc
Both Mr. Gehry's and Mr. Calatrava's towers would be built in an area just north of Wall Street, where the bedrock is less firm. To support them, engineers will have to drive pylons more than 150 feet into the earth, adding millions to construction costs.

Such considerations no longer seem to matter.The celebrated French architect Christian Portzamparc and Gary Handel, of New York, are currently completing a design for a luxury residential tower farther north at 28th Street and Lexington Avenue, overlooking Madison Square. The tower's faceted glass form will have the sharp edges of a cut diamond.
Another one to keep an eye on....
     
     
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Old Posted Sep 5, 2004, 4:30 PM
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I can't wait to see this tower...the location is especcially good because it will help extend the skyline north.
     
     
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Old Posted Sep 5, 2004, 4:32 PM
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Big One!!
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Old Posted Sep 5, 2004, 6:55 PM
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Demolition has begun on the site of Gehry's building?! That's good news, and quicker than i thought.

Good article, there are some really exciting projects mentioned in it. I am quite excited about the news that Rogers is doing something for Queens, i don't think he has built anything in NY before.
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Old Posted Sep 5, 2004, 10:36 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by STERNyc
To give an idea of how the new tower might look, Frank Gehrys unbuilt NYTIMES Headquarters:

Hopefully it WONT look like that.

I'm not a big fan of his work. Bilbao was like wow, then it was like, oh okay, now its, meh.
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Old Posted Sep 5, 2004, 10:49 PM
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That Santiago Calatrava looks amazing, I think that project excites me more than any other nyc project.
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Last edited by Lucky 24; Sep 5, 2004 at 11:08 PM.
     
     
  #19  
Old Posted Sep 5, 2004, 10:57 PM
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That NY Times HQ looks lke a jellyfish. ermm...

Lets just hope he sharpened up a little bit since then
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Old Posted Sep 5, 2004, 11:07 PM
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I think Gehry was trying to evoke a building made of paper with that design, since he designed it for the NY Times newspaper after all.
I doubt his current project will be very similar in overall shape. The crown sounds very interesting though, I'm thinking of something like Pelli's BOA in Charlotte, is that about right?
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