David Ziskind ’61 had a meeting scheduled for the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, at the World Trade Center in the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s offices on the 73rd floor.
David Ziskind

David Ziskind ’61 at the World Trade Center Transportation Hub in New York, his latest project as chief architect at the firm STV Inc. The building features a concourse longer than Grand Central Station and a skylight that will open each year on September 11.

As fate would have it, that meeting was postponed. And for the past 15 years, Ziskind, chief architect at the international engineering and design firm STV Inc., has worked in every aspect of the rebuilding efforts at Ground Zero.

Ziskind’s STV team helped implement the vision of architect Santiago Calatrava, whose design evokes a bird in flight. The monumental World Trade Center Transportation Hub, with its cathedral-like white marble interior, features a grand concourse longer than Grand Central Terminal’s, and a canopy that reaches 160 feet high. Its crowning spine is a skylight that will open each year on September 11.

Through the skylight looms Tower 1 of the World Trade Center, for which STV was the construction manager. “There will be a wedge of light streaming down,” Ziskind said.

Wrote architecture critic Paul Goldberger of the Calatrava design: “New York City has built a truly sumptuous interior space for the benefit of the public.”

One late afternoon in July, Ziskind led a tour of the transit hub, which officially opened in May and, when completed by 2018, will serve about 200,000 commuters a day. He grinned when he saw commuters streaming across the white Carrera marble floor to the PATH rail platform or to 11 subway stops, which are connected by broad passageways that extend from the concourse. “What excites me is seeing all these people moving through here,” Ziskind said.

Ron Lem, the Transportation Hub’s senior project architect, said an important part of the execution of Calatrava’s design was Ziskind’s concern for the hub’s users. “Plus he’s got such charisma and style,” Lem said.

Building the $4-billion Transportation Hub presented significant engineering challenges. During construction, the MTA’s No. 1 subway line, which was high up in the subterranean parcel, and the New Jersey PATH station, much farther underground, had to remain open. Then came 9/11’s 10th anniversary and the demand that the plaza over the hub be ready for that ceremony. That required Ziskind’s team to ensure that the project could be built from the top down so it was completed in time. “It’s like you were building it in reverse,” he said.

At 77, Ziskind says he’s not ready for retirement. In July he was off to Iowa to meet with corrections officials regarding a women’s prison he has designed. His eyes light up when discussing the Fine Arts Library he’s designing with Austrian architect Wolfgang Tschapeller for Cornell University. Ziskind’s STV also designed a new residential barracks at the U.S. Military Academy Preparatory School at West Point.

Then there’s his company’s role as construction manager for the rebuilding of New York’s LaGuardia Airport terminal as well as the ongoing competition STV has entered for a new Penn Station, and the expansion of New York’s Javits Convention Center.

Ziskind became STV’s chief architect in 1994 after the company bought his firm. “When I had my own firm, I did everything but architecture as a psychologist, philosopher, accountant, and HR director,” he said. “Coming here was the best thing I ever did.”