When the twin towers collapsed in New York City on 11 September 2001, the world watched with shock. The World Trade Center was a global icon, a symbol of modern achievement as well as a high-functioning office hub that anchored one of the most famous cities in the world. Redeveloping the site presented enormous psychological, historical and financial challenges, and there were moments when it seemed as if recovery would be impossible. Yet the Ground Zero Master Plan ultimately surmounted all obstacles, both practical and emotional. Project teams answered destruction with creation, building an extraordinary new memorial and gleaming new skyscrapers that not only breathed new life and energy into one of Manhattan’s most significant neighborhoods but came to symbolize the resilience of human hope.

All eyes were on the Ground Zero site from the beginning, with varied local and national policymakers often at odds about priorities and processes. Architect Daniel Libeskind, founder of Studio Libeskind and the master planner for the entire 10-million-square-foot (929,030-square-meter) complex, initially clashed with site developer Larry Silverstein and tower designer David Childs, chairman emeritus of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, on the creative vision. But ultimately the myriad stakeholders found a way, through years of iterations and compromises, to transform the hollow footprints of the twin towers into hallowed spaces.

The signature US$3.8 billion One World Trade Center, completed in 2014, marked a transition into a new post-9/11 world. It was among the first U.S. skyscrapers to incorporate more rigorous safety standards, including improved sprinkler systems, faster elevators and better emergency exit routes. The complementary US$700 million National September 11 Memorial & Museum also made its debut in 2014, after lead contractor Lendlease overcame delays caused by blizzards and hurricane flooding. Although the original plan neglected to single out those who saved lives, the site added a memorial for rescue and recovery workers in 2019.

“Millions of people from around the world will come to this site and see what we’ve accomplished,” Neil Clarke, senior project manager and vice president of Lendlease, told PM Network in 2015. “It was probably the toughest project I’ve ever worked on, but it was an honor to be part of it.”