Rebuilding Ground Zero: 10 years later

By Karen Hong, Associate Planner at M-Group

The New York Times has posted a special report online called “The Reckoning -- America and the World a Decade after 9/11.” The “Rebuilding” section contains several articles about the site today, the its planned buildings and memorial features, and an interactive 360 visualization of the original plaza, together with the twin towers and other buildings in that space.

The articles reminded me of a negotiation class that I took in school in 2006 where Ground Zero was used as a case study. My classmates and I role-played Larry Silverstein (the developer who held the leases to the twin towers), the insurance company that Silverstein disputed with over whether the attacks constituted one or two incidents, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, and interest groups representing families of the victims. We debated over what should be built, and what should be preserved.

While our negotiations were artificially influenced by charts that indicated the number of points each party would win if we arrived at consensus, this was probably the most difficult and memorable case we worked through in that class. Yet it gave only a glimpse of the immense amounts of planning and delicate intricacies that surrounded the rebuilding of this massive, most iconic, and highly sensitive site. It has taken the world's top architects and master planners to put a new face to the place together, in collaboration with and under the direction of several parties, each with their own complex emotional and economic interests.

And because of the sheer size and the complexity of the process, it’s still a work-in-progress.

Addressing such a memorial site through planning and architecture, is only a tiny fraction of the healing process after 9/11. It tells me that the real rebuilding work, of society and of people’s lives, is far more difficult and will continue to be a work-in-progress for a long time to come.