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Libeskind Alive! (At Least in SoCal)

Where the original Freedom Tower was actually built, plastic brick by brick.

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Six years after the World Trade Center was destroyed, the Freedom Tower, with its Statue of Liberty–evoking offset spire and futuristic rooftop wind turbines, soars above Grand Central Terminal and looms over the tiny, blocky strollers and skaters in Central Park, all according to architect Daniel Libeskind’s grand design. It took just four months to build, is only 28 feet tall, is made of 170,000 or so Lego bricks—and stands in Legoland USA outside San Diego. It’s a “way to pay tribute to the heroes and victims of 9/11,” Legoland spokeswoman Julie Estrada says; the mini-monument was up by March 2005, pretty much according to the 2003 schedule laid out by Libeskind for the actual ground zero. Adding insult to injury, the Lego version was only three months old when Libeskind’s plan—which had won the 2002 competition to design the new WTC—was nixed and plans for the tower were changed into the stolid, symmetrical Skidmore, Owings & Merrill version finally under way in Manhattan. Although the real one’s not scheduled to be completed until 2011, it will rise above street level next year. Meanwhile, the other three shardlike office buildings Libeskind designed around the memorial site were handed off to other architects; developer Larry Silverstein released the final designs of Towers 2, 3, and 4 last week, along with a construction schedule that will commence in January. “Daniel Libeskind will have to go to Legoland to see his impact at ground zero,” says Philip Nobel, author of Sixteen Acres, about the struggle to rebuild after 9/11, “because there’s nothing left of him downtown.”

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