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Cersaie 2010: Conferences and Seminars
Lectio Magistralis David Childs, SOM.

Thursday 30 September - 11.00 a.m.
Palazzo dei Congressi, Sala Europa

Ground Zero: Designing and Building the Freedom Tower


David M. Childs More

David M. Childs

Architect, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (USA)

The History of World Trade Center:
Historical development of WTC site in the context of Downtown: 1767 to start of original WTC construction,Development of original WTC,September 11, 2001.
Seven WTC: Urban and architectural design. Construction, Precedent for other development on site.
The Master Plan: Liebskind master plan, Evolution of master plan.
One WTC (Freedom Tower) :Urban design, Relationship to Master Plan, Relationship to Memorial, Relationship to original tower design by Yamasaki, Architectural design,Tower form (plan and section), Antenna sculpture, Curtain wall, Base (Structure and Skin), Exterior public spaces, Lobby entrance, Security, Sustainable Design, Current construction status.

Biographical notes
David M. Childs is Chairman Emeritus of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.  He continues to serve as consulting designer on selected projects at SOM/NY.  A graduate of Deerfield Academy, Yale College and the Yale School of Art and Architecture, Mr. Childs joined the Washington, D.C. office of SOM in 1971 after serving as Design Director of the Pennsylvania Avenue Commission, under the leadership of Nathaniel Owings and Daniel P. Moynihan.  In 1984, Mr. Childs relocated to SOM’s New York office, where he became the office’s Senior Design Partner.

Mr. Childs has served as the Chairman of the National Capital Planning Commission and the Chairman of the Commission of Fine Arts in Washington, both Presidential appointments.  His current civic involvements include the Chairmanship of the Municipal Art Society, and memberships on the boards of the American Academy in Rome and the National Housing Partnership Foundation.  Among other institutions, he has been actively engaged on the boards of the Museum of Modern Art, the National Building Museum and the Architectural League.  He is a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects.

Mr. Childs’ completed projects in Washington include the 1976 Washington Mall master plan and Constitution Gardens; headquarter buildings for the National Geographic and the U.S. News and World Report; the Four Seasons, Regent and Park Hyatt hotels; and the expansion of the Dulles Airport main terminal.  In New York, a sampling of his diverse range of completed projects includes Worldwide Plaza (the subject of an 8-part television documentary); the New York Mercantile Exchange; the JFK International Arrivals Building; the Bear Stearns (now J.P. Morgan) Headquarters; the master plan for Riverside South; the renovation and preservation of Lever House; the Time Warner Headquarters at Columbus Circle; and 7 World Trade Center, the highly acclaimed first tower rebuilt on Ground Zero after 9/11.

Other major projects by Mr. Childs in the United States include the Swiss Bank Center in Stamford, Connecticut; a Natatorium and a Math, Science and Technology Building, both at Deerfield Academy in Deerfield, Massachusetts; and the U.S. Courthouse in Charleston, West Virginia.  Internationally, Mr. Childs has completed or has under construction such projects as the new Lester B. Pearson International Airport in Toronto, Canada; the Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel; West Ferry Circus at Canary Wharf in London; the United States Embassy in Ottawa, Canada; and Tokyo Midtown, a 5.4-million-square-foot mixed-use development in the heart of the Roppongi District.  
Mr. Childs is currently working on the design of 1 World Trade Center (formerly named the Freedom Tower) at the World Trade Center, the centerpiece of the commercial development at Ground Zero; and the new Moynihan Train Station located in the historic Farley Post Office in New York City.

Mr. Childs has also juried, often as Chairman, local and national design awards; participated as a visiting critic or studio leader at leading professional schools of architecture; and has been a lecturer or panelist at numerous conferences and symposia.  His design work has been widely published locally, nationally and internationally.

Francesco Dal Co More

Francesco Dal Co

Architect and Professor of history of architecture, IUAV Venice
Biographical notes
Professor, History of Architecture, School of Architecture, Yale University (1982-1991); Professor, History of Architecture, Accademia di Architettura, Università della Svizzera Italiana (1996-); Director, Department of History of Architecture, IUAV (1995-2003)
Director, Architecture Section, Venice Biennale (1988-1991)
Editor of magazine Casabella since 1996.
Senior Fellow, Center for Advanced Studies, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC Scholar, Center for Advanced Study, Getty Center, Los Angeles
Member of the Accademia di San Luca.
He is or has been a member of the editorial committees of various specialist international magazines.
He founded the “Andrea Palladio” architecture award.
He has been on the jury of numerous national and international architecture competitions.
Since 1981 he has directed the architecture section of the Electa publishing house in Milan.


Video interview

David M. Childs

Press release "That was how I built the highest tower in New York"

David M. Childs, world famous architect and president of SOM, gave a keynote lecture at Cersaie. "It is simplicity and attention to detail that makes for great architecture," he said. The great masters? "They are important, but even more important are ideas, the way they are put into practice, the ability to imagine the future"



Building a better city, grasping an opportunity even where tragedy and human folly have taken their biggest toll. Demonstrating with facts that architecture can be much more than the noble art of interpreting the tastes and fashions of the moment. These are the goals of David M. Childs, world-famous architect with a career spanning 40 years, many of which at the helm of Skidmore, Owings & Merril LLP (SOM), who spoke yesterday at Cersaie. In his keynote lecture to a packed Palazzo dei Congressi, the celebrated architect discussed how it is possible to transform “visions”, almost platonic ideas that arise in the minds of architects, into completed or in any case feasible projects. Even at Ground Zero, a place that many consider sacred, inviolable. Childs’ challenge? To bring Ground Zero back to life and return it to the city.  


“This was certainly an exciting project,” Childs explained. “It was exciting for all Americans, especially the people of New York, and even more so for those like us who worked on the site. But we New Yorkers see this project as an opportunity to start afresh, to rebuild. We must begin by realising that much of our city is not so beautiful. This particular case gave us the opportunity to go back and build better, not just in terms of design but to make the complex a truly integral part of the city and not just a place of commemoration. We worked hard on this project so that part of the city would return to being a transparent place, without walls or weapons, but a place where people could live and remember, a better place than it has been in the last half century.”   David M. Childs is an example for colleagues and a role model for the many young architects attending the exhibition and to whom this edition of Cersaie has devoted prestigious exhibitions, competitions and training events. Young people, Childs notes, should not be content to stand on the sidelines and watch. Instead they should rise to the challenge and work alongside highly experienced professionals.  


“Both expert and younger architects took part in this project,” Childs continued. “For example, the memorial, probably the most important building at Ground Zero, was designed by young architects and the result is outstanding. The design of the museum was assigned to a young Finnish architect. It’s not age that counts but ideas, the way in which they are put into practice, the ability to imagine the future. Combining these aspects we get the best from both experienced professionals and young people.”  


Innovation, quality and management are the key concepts that have guided SOM for more than half a century. Projects that aspire to greatness but at the same time are firmly rooted in practicality, in building science, in materials and their characteristics, in aesthetics and functionality that become two sides of the same coin.                  


“Design quality, which should always be excellent, is what distinguishes architecture from sculpture. Architecture must also be practical,” argued Childs. “Architecture is a science, it must create projects that convey an idea of quality of space for the benefit of people, the landscape and living standards. Design must not just represent the fashion of the moment. Of course it must reflect aesthetic tastes, but good architecture must also been functional. In this case the offices we have built are the best in America. Moreover, architecture must also be an economically successful activity. All these aspects must be considered when carrying through a project. And when it is successful, the results are excellent.”  


Washington Mall, the National Geographic headquarters, Dulles Airport terminal in Washington, as well as numerous projects in New York such as the Worldwide Plaza, the New York Mercantile Exchange, the JFK International Arrival Building, the JP Morgan headquarters and the complete urban planning project for Riverside South. In Childs’ long career dating back to 1971 he has carried through an enormous number of projects, the most recent of which include reconstruction of the central section of Ground Zero and remodelling of the railway station located in the historic New York post office. So which building best represents Childs’ “vision”? In which building does he most recognise himself?  


“It is very difficult to say. History is easier to write afterwards, looking at the successes and failures. Sometimes you do your very best, other times the result is not quite as perfect as you had hoped, yet other times the result is better than you had imagined. The first building I designed at Ground Zero, which stands at the place where the third and last tower fell, is probably the best in terms of its social and economic functionality and aesthetics. It is a very simple and linear building, elegant in its details. That’s probably the secret. Rather than striving to follow the fashion of the moment, it is simplicity and attention to detail that makes for great architecture.”



Cersaie Press Office - 1 October 2010 -

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