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Sixteen Acres: Architecture and the Outrageous Struggle for the Future of Ground Zero Hardcover – December 23, 2004

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From Publishers Weekly

Almost from the moment the World Trade Center towers collapsed on 9/11, Americans, and especially New Yorkers, began to dream of how the site would be rebuilt. As Nobel relates, one recovery worker imagined a series of five buildings arrayed like a hand giving terrorists the finger. More established architects toned down the anger, but it was a given that their plans for a new World Trade Center would contain a message about the old. Nobel, an architectural columnist for Metropolis, guides readers through early redevelopment plans and the design competition that made Daniel Libeskind famous even among people who know nothing of architecture. Nobel also examines the bitter infighting that followed the selection of his proposal. On its own terms, this is a dramatic and compelling story, and Nobel's insights into the competitive nature of top-level architecture are particularly valuable. But his passionate opinions about the deficiencies of most modern architects (no longer able to "make buildings speak... to create symbols for a culture with no common code") can be distracting. A more serious flaw, however, is the lack of illustrations, of Libeskind's design and those of the other finalists. Nobel's prose, even at its most descriptive, can go only so far toward shaping readers' vision of the proposed buildings. 2 maps not seen by PW.
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“Among the smartest architecture critics around, and one of the best writers of the bunch, Philip Nobel also has a reporter's eye for telling details and jaw-dropping gossip.  In Sixteen Acres he chronicles the impossible project-of-the-century lucidly and sharply, armed with common sense, unfailing humor, a good moral compass and no particular axe to grind.”
--Kurt Andersen, author of Turn of the Century

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Metropolitan Books; First Printing edition (January 4, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805074945
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805074949
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 1.2 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,698,202 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Michael J. Moose on August 28, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Sixteen Acres is a gripping read for any architect or citizen who hopes that a monumental building in this era can be transcendent. No where have I seen such a thorough accounting of the forces that come to bear on the form of a building. Sixteen Acres is the record of how the desire of the American people to find an expression for the loss they suffered-or the telling off they wished to do-was shaped by the many powerful forces that acted on the site: Governor Pataki's aspirations, the widows', the mayor's, the LMDC, the Port Authority, Larry Silverman's 99 year lease. The book is truly about the profession of "architecture and the outrageous struggle for the future of Ground Zero."

As Mr. Nobel says "...architecture remains the most prominent and most culturally engaged of all the arts. It is also the most contingent-an art that is neither high nor low, an art that gets to art only after locking lips with reality: satisfying a client, securing funds and permits and insurance, getting built." This book paints the lip lock in glowing detail. He has the wisdom to recognize that at the end of the day "...when the politicians line up to cut their ribbons, whatever [building] shades the dais that day will be at once stranger and more fitting than anything they had imagined when they set about to govern its birth. In a way it will be perfect."

For young architects and those who think design is about the power of their vision, this eye-opener will help them see that in addition to having their vision, they must also design the process; that is, they must so understand the interests of the various parties that they can target the area of the overlap. In that area, on any particular job, will be the perfect solution.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on February 5, 2006
Format: Hardcover
`'Sixteen Acres. Architecture and the outrageous struggle for the future of Ground Zero'' by Philip Nobel.

`'Architecture is the art of compromise.''

Daniel Liebeskind

One of the top architecture critics , Philip Nobel takes the readers of his book on an amazing trip, deep into the world of `' the outrageous struggle'' among architects, politicians, developers and businessmen responsible for the rebuilding of Ground Zero in order to fill in the void that has been created at those sixteen acres. It has been an enriching and at the same time interesting experience to read it. This non- fictional account of what has been happening behind the scenes at Lower Manhattan among some crucial players in this game like Larry

Silverstein, Port Authority, the LMDC, Governor George Pataki and other politicians or members of families who lost their loved ones in the tragedy, in fact reads like an extraordinary novel. With his in- depth analysis and an incredibly realistic style of writing, his work can be easily understood not only by professionals but those who know nothing about architecture as well. The book artfully blends some historical information about architecture together with real dramatic life events and very often shocking, hair-rising gossip. As Liebeskind puts it, you need compromise in order to design and create new buildings, ones that will `' speak the unspeakable'' and fairly fill in the void, and at the same time satisfy everyone's needs and wishes. Can this actually be achieved in real life? With so many players involved it might turn out to be a pretty difficult task. Who is the winner and who looses? The book written by Nobel is a great eye-opener shedding new lights on this controversial issue of rebuilding Ground Zero.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Paul Tognetti TOP 500 REVIEWER on March 10, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Several months ago I read the James Glanz and Eric Lipton book "City In The Sky: The Rise and Fall of The World Trade Center". That book, authored by a pair of New York Times reporters, chronicled the long history of the project from the germ of an idea at the 1939 World's Fair, to the design and planning of a project unlike any other in the history of mankind, to the cataclysmic events of September 11th, 2001. Since I enjoyed that book so much I was very excited when I came across "Sixteen Acres". It seemed to me the perfect sequel to "City In The Sky". Author Philip Nobel writes about architecture for the New York Times and set about the business of documenting the incredibly complicated and sometimes acrimonious process of redeveloping the World Trade Center site.

As one might well imagine, the job of designing a replacement for the WTC was an almost impossible task. There were pressures from so many stakeholders including the families of the victims, the politicians, the various bureaucracies, the tenants as well as from Larry Silverstein, who just six weeks before the attack, had signed a 99 year lease to operate the WTC. Then there was the epic struggle between the competing architects and their visions of what the real estate should look like when all was said and done. I found that Nobel did a pretty fair job in describing the process and introducing the reader to the various players involved in this drama. But I also found that the author frequently seemed to forget that many readers have absolutely no training in design and architecture. While I thought I was getting the gist of what he was trying to convey, I often felt I was missing something in the translation. And that is why illustrations would have been so helpful.
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