July 14, 2024

Square Feet | The 30-Minute Interview: T. J. Gottesdiener

During his three decades at SOM, Mr. Gottesdiener has been involved in several major projects, including One World Trade Center, 7 World Trade Center, the Time Warner Center and the Lever House renovation.

Q You’ve been called the most famous architect few have heard of. Any comment?

A My comment is thank you — that’s a compliment. That’s a real testament to the way Skidmore works, which is about all of us working together and not one person being the most important part of the project. It’s all about the buildings.

Look, throughout the course of history at this firm there have been famous names — you might go to Gordon Bunshaft or Bruce Graham, and people know the name David Childs. Frankly, a lot of the name recognition you see has been created, whether by clients or by marketing.

Q Having said that, do you have a favorite architect?

A I would probably say Le Corbusier. There was something about his innovation and his plasticity about design. Although a lot of his urban projects that many people know about — Towers in the Park — are probably real disasters, there were other projects that were quite fascinating.

Q Let’s move on to one of SOM’s biggest projects, One World Trade Center. What’s your role there?

A SOM is the architect for Tower One, and we’re leading all of that design and effort. My role is managing that process.

Q So where do we stand in the process?

A We’re about 65 floors. They’re setting steel at the rate of a floor per week. We’re about the height of 7 World Trade Center, which is over 700 feet, and things are really falling into place.

Q Were you concerned by the numerous delays?

A People have commented that it’s taken a long time, and my comment is, I don’t think so. Look where we are now. We’ve had so many obstacles because of the conditions of the site: A lot of it was below the grade; it’s over active PATH tracks; we’re holding back the Hudson River, basically on reclaimed land. This is probably the most complicated building I’ve ever done.

Q And there have been more complications. Last month, the Port Authority vetoed the idea of having 2,000 glass panels installed at the base, in part because of technical problems.

A As it was manufactured, the glass at the base of One World Trade Center simply did not perform as we were promised, so we are in the process of redesigning it. Things like this happen occasionally, and that is why we have developed such a thorough process.

Q How did all the safety issues affect the building’s design?

A Well, I hope for you and everybody else who’s at the building, there’s no effect. But for us as designers there was a big impact.

When the towers came down after 9/11, we had to rethink the building codes, and 7 World Trade Center was the first one that implemented a lot of the ideas before the code had even been enacted. A lot of nuances and major things have changed in designing high-rise buildings.

Q Some of the new codes came at the suggestion of SOM, right?

A Many of our people were involved with the city in rewriting the codes. We have, for example, all kinds of redundancies in building systems. Fire protection has cross-connections, so if there’s one sprinkler that is out of service, the other one will cover it. We’ve increased stair widths to allow firefighters to climb upstairs while people exit. There are little things, like phosphorescent tape in the egress stairs.

It was done at 7 World Trade Center. They were almost experiments, because the code had not yet been enacted.

Q Is the rebuilding at ground zero a career-definer?

A I definitely would think that this is one of the greatest achievements that I’ve been able to work on. But I said that about the Time Warner Center and I said that about Tokyo Midtown.

Q Let’s talk about some other projects in New York.

A The John Jay College of Criminal Justice expansion project is close to being finished. We are doing a rather low building that will essentially become their campus. And we’re starting the first phase of the Moynihan Station redevelopment.

Q Is the firm doing anything to celebrate its 75th year this year?

A No. We thought about it, and talked about it. But the one thing we thought most about was what are we going to do for the next 75 years, to move forward.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/05/realestate/t-j-gottesdiener.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

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