Wedge of Light will have shadows every 9/11


Downtown Express photo by Brett C Vermilyea

Architect Eli Attia, who discovered that Daniel Libeskind’s proposed plaza for the World Trade Center site will have shadows every Sept. 11.

There will be shadows covering much of Daniel Libeskind’s

proposed “Wedge of Light” plaza every Sept. 11, which appears to contradict the architect’s previous claim about his design for the World Trade Center site.

Libeskind, who was selected at the end of February to design the site, unveiled his design Dec. 18 when he spoke of his Wedge of Light plaza at Church and Fulton Sts. He positioned the proposed buildings and the triangular plaza in such a way that there would be a special lighting effect the morning of Sept. 11, coinciding with the times the first plane hit the World Trade Center and the second tower collapsed.

“To commemorate those lost lives, I created two large public places, the Park of Heroes and the Wedge of Light,” Libeskind’s statement on the project reads. “Each year on September 11th between the hours of 8:46 a.m., when the first airplane hit and 10:28 a.m., when the second tower collapsed, the sun will shine without shadow, in perpetual tribute to altruism and courage.”

Libeskind acknowledged last week that there will be shadows on the plaza between those times after architect Eli Attia, released a shadow study of the design, which was first reported in The New York Times. But he disputed any contradiction between his previous statements. He said between the key moments in time, you’ll be able to watch the shadow move through the site.

“It’s not as if the plaza will be in shadows at those two moments,” Libeskind said in an interview. “You’ll be able to see the sun move through the site. That’s what I’ve always talked about.”

He said it was always clear that you couldn’t create a large shadow-free space near skyscrapers. “New York City is not a four-story city,” he said.

There had been a certain amount of confusion regarding the wedge plaza from the beginning. When Libeskind presented his plan with the eight competing proposals in December, some left the Winter Garden under the impression he would be able to keep all shadows off the entire 16-acre site on the morning of Sept. 11. But in the weeks that followed, it seemed as if the shadow-free effect would be only for the Wedge of Light plaza.

Gov. George Pataki, who was influential in the selection of Libeskind, was among those who had a false impression of what was being proposed. Two weeks ago, when he announced a timetable for Lower Manhattan projects, Pataki said within five years, “Daniel Libeskind’s spectacular entranceway to the site, the Wedge of Light – where the sun will shine without shadow the morning of every Sept. 11 – will have been created.”

Asked by Downtown Express this week if he was disappointed to learn about the shadows, Pataki smiled and said “I’ll have to talk with my astronomer first.”

Michele McManus, a spokesperson for the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., said: “Daniel has produced a compelling vision for the World Trade Center site. More explanation will be necessary to show how different elements of the plan will be realized and Daniel will continue to elaborate as we go forward.”

She said Libeskind was working on an animated model that will illustrate what the lighting effects will be every Sept. 11.

Attia says that between 40 percent and 99 percent of the plaza will be covered in shadows between the key times every Sept. 11. He criticized Libeskind’s quotes in the Times, in which Libeskind said the reflection from the Millenium hotel — which Attia coincidentally designed – would help create the shadow-free effect.

“It doesn’t make any sense,” Attia said in a phone interview. “It’s just gibberish. This is very simple physics – light is light and shadow is shadow.”

Libeskind said there will not be as much shadow on the plaza as Attia estimates.

“It’s a false estimation based on false shadows, based on false times,” he said.

Madelyn Wils, a board member of the L.M.D.C., said she liked the Wedge because it created open space and she “never took it literally” that there would be no shadows on Sept. 11. But she thinks Libeskind’s explanation that he hasn’t changed his claim is less than truthful. “He needs to be more careful about the way he speaks,” said Wils. “Obviously [his current Wedge explanation] is different from what he said before.”

Attia, who has proposed building three 1,728-foot towers on the site, is part of a group called The Phoenix Project (, which has criticized the Libeskind scheme and says the plaza will “in fact be a Wedge of Darkness and Shame.”

Attia said he did not submit his design to the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. last year because he did not want to sign away his intellectual property rights and the competition did not adhere to typical competition guidelines in which a plan is selected, as opposed to the L.M.D.C, process in which seven architectural teams were selected before they had submitted a design.

He said he thought if the competition process were reopened, after four months, there would be other plans in addition to his that would be superior to Libeskind’s. He said his towers are better than Libeskind’s 1,776-foot Freedom Tower because they would be fully occupied at the highest floors. Each of his towers would have public spaces on the lower floors, then offices, then hotels, then apartments. He doesn’t think fears about constructing tall towers would prohibit his plan from being built.

“The whole notion of lower buildings being safer than taller buildings is absolutely rubbish,” said Attia. “What do we do, go and live in caves?”


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