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Up from Zero: Politics, Architecture, and the Rebuilding of New York Paperback – 13 Sep 2005

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"Paul Goldberger is America's foremost interpreter of public architecture, and it is hard to imagine an architectural project more important to Americans than the one his latest book describes. It is a fraught and fascinating tale, and very nicely told." -Tracy Kidder

"From the Hardcover edition."

From the Inside Flap

In "Up from Zero, Paul Goldberger, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, tells the inside story of the quest to rebuild one of the most important symbolic sites in the world, the sixteen acres where the towers of the former World Trade Center stood. A story of power, politics, architecture, community, and culture, "Up from Zero takes us inside the controversial struggle to create and build one of the most challenging urban-design projects in history.
What should replace the fallen towers? Who had the courage and vision to rise to the task of rebuilding? Who had the right, finally, to decide? The struggle began soon after September 11, 2001, as titanic egos took sides, made demands, and jockeyed for power. Lawyers, developers, grieving families, local residents, politicians, artists, and architects all had fierce needs, radically different ideas, strong emotions, and boundless determination. How could conflicting interests be resolved? After hundreds of hours of often rancorous meetings, the first sets of plans were finally revealed in the summer of 2002-and the results were staggeringly disappointing.
Yet, as Goldberger shows, the rebuilding process recovered and began to flourish. Rather than degenerating into turf wars, it evolved in ways that no one could have predicted. From the decision to reintegrate the site into the dense fabric of lower Manhattan, to the choice of Daniel Libeskind as master planner, to the appointment of a memorial jury, the process has been marked by moments of bold vision, effective community activism, and personal instinct, punctuating the often contentious politics of public participation.
"Up from Zero takes in the full sweep of this tremendous effort.Goldberger presents a drama of creative minds at work, solving seemingly insurmountable clashes of taste, interests, and ideas. With unique access to the players and the process, and with a sophisticated understanding of architecture and its impact on people and on the social and cultural life of a city, Paul Goldberger here chronicles the courage, the sacrifices, and the burning passions at the heart of one of the greatest efforts of urban revitalization in modern times.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.5 out of 5 stars 4 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Factual, informative, broad, and surprisingly objective 10 July 2005
By Eugene Tenenbaum Reluctant Reader - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Who would have expected from Paul Goldberger to produce such a restraint in personal opinion and - instead - factual, informative, surprisingly objective, and detailed history of the Ground Zero's struggle to rebuild the WTC in NYC? It is a story involving distribution of billions of dollars by those having executive power (combined with exemption from NY City building code) giving the politicians ("Emperor" Pataki, the Director of LMDC Roland Betts - a close friend and business partner of President George W. Bush, ...) opportunities to establish arbitrary restrictions and allowances regardless of the cost and usefulness, to arbitrarily select the participants of design process regardless of their merit, ability, capacity, and a public interest, etc. They created (initiated and developed) opportunities for favored participants in the design process to gain from their political and not entirely appropriate, but self-serving decisions, which - at the end - bit them, after confronted by a reality check, which exposed their selfishness and ignorance.
Supplementing illustrations are in "Imagining Ground Zero" - ISBN: 0847826570.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A true epic of a great contemporary city, New York. 25 July 2006
By Joongwon Lee - Published on
Format: Paperback
What's so great about this book?

Is it because the book carefully analyzes

pros and cons on the history of the area?

Is it because the book brings alive the political

games of Port Authority and LMDC?

Is it because the book broadcasts the competition

of world-class architects?

Is it because the book records the behind scenes

of super architects' dirty cat fight?

Is it because the eye of the book is not only from

top-down, but also bottom-up?

Is it because the book tells what the role of developer is in NY?

Well, the book surely answers all of above-mentioned questions. But the real drama of the book is in what the New Yorkers did together to make this site memorable and meaningful (both symbolically and practically); a strong testimony to the victorious civic life against the destructive terrorists attacks.

Paul Goldberger bites that drama with such tenacity and rigor that it's really difficult to put down the book once in hands. The book actually mentions that NY had to wait several months before speaking of rebuilding because nobody dared to speak when the scars of terrorism was just around the corner. What a tragic yet promising story!

The heart of the matter is that in the turmoil of rebuilding energy arises a revelation how a great contemporary city -such as New York- claims it's identity. It's a city of ideas. It's a city of debates. It's a city of interactions, and it's a city of generating hope from the deepest despair of human affairs. "It's a city of Victors, not Victims"

I would like to believe that Goldberger, as a New Yorker, simply could not resist speaking of what he had witnessed. The book is mind bothering, yet, heart beating read.
5.0 out of 5 stars Paul gives us a well-informed and intelligent account of how various institutional 20 July 2015
By R. Debrigard - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
If you are interested in City Planning, this book is a must. Paul Goldberger gives us a well-informed and intelligent account of how various institutional, personal, and economic forces present in post-9/11/01 New York City came together over a 10-year period to produce the redevelopment of "Ground Zero" as we know it today. He does a great job at detailing all the salient characteristics of the project, and traces their origin and development in the push and pull of the various forces at work. Paul can do this because he is well versed in the history of the city, its social and political character and institutions, the nature of the city's real estate profession, and at the same time also knows the design and planning professions, and the concepts and ideas that have guided these over time, particularly as they apply to New York City. He also must have had the inside ear of many individuals in and out of government that were close to the action, because at various junctures he provides us with vignettes that could only have been known by the parties at the table. And clearly he had access to a lot of newspapers, because the development of Ground Zero is probably one of the most publicized architectural "events" in recent history. One wonders how he manages to describe the relative merits of the various proposals that surfaced in all these "competitions" (for the Master Plan, for the Memorial, for the Transit Hub...) without offending their creators, yet, if his evaluations seem fair and balanced to the reader, it because his evaluations are almost always based on solid, clearly-stated principles and historical facts. His most important thesis is the one that applies to the least appealing characteristic of the Ground Zero Development: its over-preponderance of office buildings on these 116 acres, at the expense of other possible uses, particularly residential. More mixed uses would have made for a much livelier and "human" environment. This, he shows us, is readily traced to the Port Authority's relentless insistence that the program for the site be patterned after the original World Trade Center with its 10 million sq. ft of office space, plus the previous retail commercial space, and NO residential, all this because the Port Authority was determined to receive all the rent payments it had negotiated for the leases of World Trade Center and not one penny less. As Goldberger notes, only New York's Governor Pataki could have changed that equation, but Pataki did not want to risk any animosity that would disturb his election prospects, and only cared for Ground Zero as a background for his self aggrandizement. Lacking his support, no one, not even Bloomberg, managed to change the equation. This is too bad because, no matter how much or how little you like what you find there today, it is hard to dispute the fact that it would have been so much better with more intermixing of other uses, including residential. Perhaps the future will reverse that. NOTE: I wish the book had a lot more pictures - the ones in the paperback edition are really unsatisfactory.”
4.0 out of 5 stars The author takes us through the design competitions with great verve. It is a gripping story of how ... 9 Jun. 2015
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a lively well-informed book about how it came to pass that the proposed Freedom Tower was never built and the tall structure presently on the site is the latest model of a commercial office building. The author takes us through the design competitions with great verve. It is a gripping story of how things did not get done and did get done in New York City. Essential reading for anyone interested in Ground Zero or, indeed, in the city.
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