Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles Kurt Andersen: Like many architects, David is a hog for the limelight but is sufficiently reticent -- or at least pretends to be -- that he asked me to question him rather than speaking. In fact what we're going to talk about, I think, is in fact a subject that is probably better served by a conversation than an address. And I guess we have a bit of news clip to precede. Dan Rather: Since the September 11th attack on the World Trade Center, many people have flocked to downtown New York to see and pay respects at what amounts to the 16-acre burial ground. Now, as CBS's Jim Axelrod reports, they're putting the finishing touches on a new way for people to visit and view the scene. Jim Axelrod: Forget the Empire State Building or the Statue of Liberty. There's a new place in New York where the crowds are thickest -- Ground Zero. Tourist: I've taken my step-daughter here from Indianapolis. This was -- out of all the tourist sites in New York City -- this was her number-one pick. JA: Thousands now line up on lower Broadway. Tourist: I've been wanting to come down here since this happened. JA: Even on the coldest winter days. To honor and remember. Tourist: It's reality, it's us. It happened here. This is ours. JA: So many, in fact, that seeing has become a bit of a problem. Tourist: I think that people are very frustrated that they're not able to get closer to see what's going on. JA: But that is about to change. In record time, a team of architects and construction workers designed and built a viewing platform to ease the frustration and bring people closer. Man: They'll get an incredible panorama and understand, I think more completely, the sheer totality of the destruction of the place. JA: If you think about it, Ground Zero is unlike most any other tourist site in America. Unlike the Grand Canyon or the Washington Monument, people come here to see what's no longer there. David Rockwell: The first experience people will have here when they see this is not as a construction site but as this incredibly moving burial ground. JA: The walls are bare by design, so people can fill them with their own memorials the way they already have along the current perimeter. Tourist: From our hearts, it affected us just as much. JA: The ramps are made of simple material -- the kind of plywood you see at construction sites -- which is really the whole point. In the face of America's worst destruction people are building again. Jim Axelrod, CBS News, New York. KA: This is not an obvious subject to be in the sensuality segment, but certainly David you are known as -- I know, a phrase you hate -- an entertainment architect. Your work is highly sensual, even hedonistic. DR: I like that word. KA: It's about pleasure -- casinos and hotels and restaurants. How did the shock that all of us -- and especially all of us in New York -- felt on the 11th of September transmute into your desire to do this thing? DR: Well the truth of the matter is, post-September 11th, I felt myself in the role originally -- first of all as someone who lives in Tribeca and whose neighborhood was devastated, and as someone who works less than a mile from there -- that I was in the role of forcing 100 people who work with me in my firm, to continue to have the same level of enthusiasm about creating the places we had been creating. In fact we're finishing a book which is called "Pleasure," which is about sensual pleasure in spaces. But I've got to tell you -- it became impossible to do that. We were really paralyzed. And I found myself the Friday after September 11th -- two days afterwards -- literally unable to motivate anyone to do anything. We gave the office a few days off. And in discussing this with other architects, we had seen people saying in the press that they should rebuild the towers as they were -- they should rebuild them 50 stories taller. And I thought it was astonishing to speculate, as if this were a competition, on something that was such a fresh wound. And I had a series of discussions -- first with Rick Scofidio and Liz Diller, who collaborated with us on this, and several other people -- and really felt like we had to find relevance in doing something. And that as people who create places, the ultimate way to help wasn't to pontificate or to make up scenarios, but to help right now. So we tried to come up with a way, as a group, to have a kind of design SWAT team. And that was the mission that we came up with. KA: Were you conscious of suddenly -- as a designer whose work is all about fulfilling wants -- suddenly fulfilling needs? DR: Well what I was aware of was, there was this overwhelming need to act now. And we were asked to participate in a few projects before this. There was a school, PS 234, that had been evacuated down at Ground Zero. They moved to an abandoned school. We took about 20 or 30 architects and designers and artists, and over four days -- it was like this urban barn-raising -- to renovate it, and everyone wanted to help. It was just extraordinary. Tom Otterness contributed, Maira Kalman contributed and it became this cathartic experience for us. KA: And that was done, effectively, by October 8 or something? DR: Yeah. KA: Obviously, what you faced in trying to do something as substantial as this project -- and this is only one of four that you've designed to surround the site -- you must have run up against the incredibly byzantine, entrenched bureaucracy and powers that be in New York real estate and New York politics. DR: Well, it's a funny thing. We finished PS 234, and had dinner with a small group. I was actually asked to be a committee chair on an AIA committee to rebuild. And I sat in on several meetings. And there were the most circuitous grand plans that had to do with long-term infrastructure and rebuilding the entire city. And the fact is that there were immediate wounds and needs that needed to be filled, and there was talk about inclusion and wanting it to be an inclusive process. And it wasn't an inclusive group. So we said, what is -- KA: It was not an inclusive group? DR: It was not an inclusive group. It was predominantly a white, rich, corporate group that was not representative of the city. KA: Shocking. DR: Yeah, surprising. So Rick and Liz and Kevin and I came up with the idea. The city actually approached us. We first approached the city about Pier 94. We saw how PS 234 worked. The families -- the victims of the families -- were going to this pier that was incredibly dehumanizing. KA: On the Hudson River? DR: Yeah. And the city actually -- through Tim Zagat initially, and then through Christyne Nicholas, then we got to Giuliani -- said, "You know we don't want to do anything with Pier 94 right now, but we have an observation platform for the families down at Ground Zero that we'd like to be a more dignified experience for the families, and a way to protect it from the weather." So I went down there with Rick and Liz and Kevin, and I've got to say, it was the most moving experience of my life. It was devastating to see the simple plywood platform with a rail around it, where the families of the victims had left notes to them. And there was no mediation between us and the experience. There was no filter. And I remembered on September 11th, on 14th Street, the roof of our building -- we can see the World Trade Towers prominently -- and I saw the first building collapse from a conference room on the eighth floor on a TV that we had set up. And then everyone was up on the roof, so I ran up there. And it was amazing how much harder it was to believe in real life than it was on TV. There was something about the comfort of the filter and how much information was between us and the experience. So seeing this in a very simple, dignified way was a very powerful experience. So we went back to the city and said we're not particularly interested in the upgrade of this as a VIP platform, but we've spent some time down there. At the same time the city had this need. They were looking for a solution to deal with 30 or 40 thousand people a day who were going down there, that had nowhere to go. And there was no way to deal with the traffic around the site. So dealing with it is just an immediate master plan.