NEW YORK - Three renowned architects today unveiled designs for skyscrapers at the site of the September 11 attacks, giving the public its first comprehensive look at how lower Manhattan's skyline will be transformed.
Britain's Norman Foster and Richard Rogers and Japan's Fumihiko Maki each designed one of the three buildings that will swirl around a memorial where the World Trade Centre's Twin Towers once stood.
Construction should be completed by 2012.
At heights of 411 metres, 382 metres and 288 metres, they will be among the tallest buildings in New York. But they will be eclipsed by the neighbouring 541-metre Freedom Tower, whose final design by American David Childs was revealed earlier this year.
The entire redevelopment is estimated to cost US$11 ($17.25) billion and can be seen on www.wtc.com.
Foster's building may be the most eye-catching, appearing to be a cluster of four slender towers, each with diamond-shaped tops tilted at an angle to direct the eye down to the memorial, the architect told reporters.
"When you look at this tower, it will immediately tell you where the memorial park is.
It's always pointing," he said.
Rogers' tower is distinguished by diagonal exterior supports and topped by four functional antennae, one at each corner of the roof.
"It was actually very much like a Gothic building or a classic building. It grew out of the ground and reached upward toward the sky," Rogers said.
The architects collaborated so that the designs, while distinct, would be harmonious.
Rogers said "a very strong dialogue" between the towers would help them rule the skyline the way the Twin Towers once did.
Maki's building will look transparent from the inside but a metallic mesh, which pays homage to midtown's Chrysler Building, will make it look luminous from the outside.
"Our concept is a cool, minimalist tower," Maki said.
All three buildings will have several levels of retail space just above and below ground level in bid to revitalise lower Manhattan, though the architects agreed that none of the shops should face the memorial to the nearly 3000 people killed in the Sept. 11 attacks.
The Foster and Rogers buildings will feature massive trading floors to lure large financial tenants. Including the Freedom Tower, the project will create 817,500 square metres of office space to replace the 929,000 square metres lost on Sept. 11.
The buildings conform to a general master plan by Daniel Libeskind, who envisioned four skyscrapers of descending heights around the memorial, which will be marked by a pair of waterfalls dropping into below-ground reflecting pools on the footprints of the original Twin Towers.
The three new skyscrapers will have floor-to-ceiling glass walls offering spectacular vistas. In a selling point to corporate executives seeking status-building corner offices, all of the towers have columns that are recessed from the corners, providing unimpeded views.
That feature came on the orders of Larry Silverstein, the developer who signed a 99-year lease on the World Trade Centre site six weeks before it was destroyed on Sept. 11, 2001.
Silverstein hired Freedom Tower designer Childs as well as the three other skyscraper architects.
After protracted disputes over insurance, design, security, financing and control over the site, construction on the Freedom Tower -- which will stand 124 metres higher than the taller of the Twin Towers -- finally began in April.