Book Review: Starting from Zero

Starting from Zero: Reconstructing Downtown New York by Michael Sorkin
Routledge, 2003
Paperback, 144 pages

Compiling articles from Architectural Record, Metropolis, Slate, a chapter from 2002's After the World Trade Center, and new material, Zero criticizes not only the designs for the reconstruction of the World Trade Center site (common in the mainstream press), but also the process leading up to the designs (uncommon in same). Mostly, Sorkin questions the commercial drive to replace ten million square feet of office space and the public's acceptance of this architectural program for the site's reconstruction. Rather than solely feature Sorkin's ramblings on the business-as-usual undertakings, we are also treated to the writer/practitioners own plans for the area, not limited to the immediate World Trade Center site. His ideas use the opportunity of rebuilding to affect greater change, imbuing downtown with green space and pedestrian areas, while spreading the millions of square feet of office space to other parts of downtown, uptown and other boroughs. Sorkin's recognizable drawings and designs might not be for everyone, but his words ring true when taking extra time and thought to construct something fitting on a site of such grief.