Frank Gehry Fired From World Trade Center Arts Complex Job

The long-delayed visual and performing art center is looking for a new architect.

Frank Gehry and Tiffany models.
Photo: © 2014 Patrick McMullan Company, Inc.

After 10 years, the long-delayed Performing Arts Center at the World Trade Center has abandoned its original, boxy Frank Gehry design, and will start over with a new firm, reports the New York Times.

“We’re in the process of selecting a new architect,” real estate developer John E. Zuccotti, the chairman of the arts center’s board, told the Times. “Three architectural firms are being considered,” none of them Gehry’s.

The starchitect told the Times he had not yet been notified that he was off the project, and had heard “zero at ground zero.” Gehry attributes center president Maggie Boepple’s (appointed in 2012) dislike of his work for his ouster. “She says I build models,” Gehry added. “She doesn’t have a clue as to what I do or how I do it. It’s fine. It’s a new group. They should do what they want. I don’t want to go where I’m not wanted.”

As previously reported by artnet News (see “Will the Frank Gehry-Designed World Trade Center Arts Complex Ever Be Built?“), Gehry’s firing is not entirely unforeseen. Earlier this year, the center hired a new temporary artistic team led by David Lan, the artistic director of London’s Young Vic theater, and jettisoned plans for the Joyce Theater’s 1,000-seat-theater, formerly expected to be the primary attraction at the center, opting instead for three smaller spaces. The center’s programming is now uncertain; another prospective tenant, the Drawing Center, opted to remain in Soho and renovate its space rather than move.

A model of Frank Gehry's design for the planned World Trade Center Performing Arts Center.

A model of Frank Gehry’s design for the planned World Trade Center Performing Arts Center.
Photo: Courtesy Frank Gehry Architects, PAC Mass.

Although Zuccotti believes “the performing arts center is a lot more credible today than it was two years ago” thanks to the opening of the National 9/11 Memorial  & Museum in the spring (see “No Light Down Here in the 9/11 Museum“), the project still faces significant hurdles, not least of all being the hefty $400 million price tag. The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation has set aside $100 million for the project, but to date only $1 million has been spent.

As originally envisioned, the center would ensure that the former World Trade Center site was more than just a complex of memorials and office buildings, transforming it into a cultural destination as well. In the more than 10 years since the unveiling of Daniel Libeskind’s master plan for the site was first unveiled, however, a number of performing art centers have sprung up or aggressively expanded around the city, from stalwarts like the Brooklyn Academy of Music and Lincoln Center, to newcomers like the Baryshnikov Arts Center and the Signature Theatre Company.

Neither mayor Bill de Blasio nor governor Andrew Cuomo have voiced their support for the project, begun by their predecessors, but they are expected to name representatives to the art center board in the near future.

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