ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JANET HAMOUS
Hillsboro High School graduate Lance Klein planned to spend the summer restoring the old house he and wife Melanie bought in Manhattan in April.
But when he got a call in May asking him to join a team of people to create a master plan for Ground Zero, the area of New York City devastated by the terrorist attack of Sept. 11, 2001, he gladly laid down his hammer and paintbrush and headed east.
Klein was born in Hillsboro and grew up in Durham, where parents Bob and LaDonna still live.
After graduating from HHS in 1992, Klein attended Kansas State University, where he graduated in 1996 with a degree in landscape architecture.
Until his return to Kansas last August, he had worked in Denver as a landscape architect.
While in Denver, Klein had the opportunity to work with Studio Libeskind, a design firm owned by Daniel Libeskind, on the Denver Art Museum expansion project.
That association proved to be a lucky break for Klein.
Libeskind’s design for rebuilding the World Trade Center site was selected last February as the winner in a highly publicized competition of top architects. His vision for Ground Zero will serve as the master plan for the site.
When experts were needed to begin fleshing out the plan, Klein’s name came up.
“They had moved to Manhattan a year ago and had just purchased a house,” LaDonna said. “He was starting to tear into that the day they called him and asked him.
“It took a week to decide, but it was one of those decisions you couldn’t say no to.”
Lance Klein agreed: “My wife and I both came out here to work on it.”
Melanie, also an architect, is a professor at K-State in the College of Architecture.
Lance Klein said the initial work is to create a master plan for the eight-block site.
“Right now, everybody’s working on the master plan, which is not the final design-it’s the early design,” Klein said. “I’m working on all the open spaces-all the streets and the parks and plazas on the exterior.”
He said they are starting from scratch in deciding where streets and open spaces will go.
“A lot of the work involves connecting to the surrounding streets and re-establishing the grid of the city,” he said.
“The previous site created what people called the ‘Mega Block.’ None of the streets went through, and it kind of isolated it from the rest of the city.
“So part of the idea with this plan is to reestablish it as part of the city and have it be a part of the fabric.
“The biggest consideration for the space now is how it functions from an urban standpoint for the city and how people who live and work in the area and people visiting the memorial can use those spaces.”
Klein said the project calls for four new towers, a transit stop, museum and a performing arts center in addition to a memorial.
“(Libeskind) laid out everything and selected the site for the memorial and the location for the towers and the other buildings,” he said.
Plan calls for a tower that will be 1,776 feet high, symbolizing the year of American independence.
“It’s planned to be the tallest building in the world,” Klein said.
The memorial will be located within the site where Klein is working, but its design is actually a separate project, he said. It will stand in an area that encompasses the “footprints” of the twin towers and will be designed by the winner of an international competition.
“They had several thousand entrants for that,” Klein said. “The deadline closed the 30th of June, so they’re reviewing the different designs, and they’re going to select up to five and then have those five work through it again.”
He said the more contemplative aspect of the tribute to 9/11 will happen at the memorial itself, “but there are some subtle things that are done on the rest of the landscape to commemorate that.”
Klein will be in New York until the end of September, when his part of the project is completed. Melanie will return to Kansas in August, when school begins.
“We feel very fortunate to be involved with the project,” Klein said. “We spend a lot of hours up here, but it’s a great team and we enjoy working with everybody. “