The most radical design change is the creation of the base, which will house the building's lobby and some mechanical systems. Designed to withstand a major bomb blast, the base will be virtually windowless. In an effort to animate its exterior, the architects say they intend to decorate it in a grid of shimmering metal panels. A few narrow slots will be cut into the concrete to allow slivers of natural light into the lobby.
The effort fails on almost every level. As an urban object, the tower's static form and square base finally brush aside the last remnants of Mr. Libeskind's master plan, whose only real strength was the potential tension it created among the site's structures. In the tower's earlier incarnation, for example, its eastern wall formed part of a pedestrian alley that became a significant entry to the memorial site, leading directly between the proposed International Freedom Center and the memorial's north pool. The alley, flanked on its other side by a performing arts center to be designed by Frank Gehry, was fraught with tension; it is now a formless park littered with trees.
UPDATE: The Anchoress is very hard on the Times's architecture critic. Myself, I admire the people who are able to find words to write about music, painting, and architecture. It is not easy. And the change to the tower really is a shame. I'd say the writer, Nicolai Ouroussoff, has expressed in words the disappointment many of us feel on seeing the pictures of the new design. And before reviling the New York Times, let's remember the good work the newspaper has put in over the past few years keeping up the pressure to make the new architecture at the World Trade Center site beautiful. Remember the originally proposed designs? The Times has done a lot here, and its method has been to stir the public's emotions about architecture, the city, politics, and physical security. There are some statements in this article that can rub you the wrong way -- the Times pictures its readers as liberals -- but overall, I think, this piece reads as a cry for strength and beauty in the city.