|German: Große Kugelkaryatide (Great Spherical Caryatid)|
|Dimensions||762 cm (300 in)|
|Location||Austin J. Tobin Plaza (original location, pictured above), Battery Park (current installation), New York City|
|Owner||Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ)|
The Sphere is a large metallic sculpture by German sculptor Fritz Koenig, displayed in Battery Park, New York City, that once stood in the middle of Austin J. Tobin Plaza, the area between the World Trade Center towers in Manhattan. After being recovered from the rubble of the Twin Towers after the September 11 attacks in 2001, the artwork faced an uncertain fate, and it was dismantled into its components. Although it remained structurally intact, it had been visibly damaged by debris from the airliners that were crashed into the buildings and from the collapsing skyscrapers themselves.
Six months after the attacks, following a documentary film about the sculpture, it was relocated to Battery Park on a temporary basis—without any repairs—and formally rededicated with an eternal flame as a memorial to the victims of 9/11. It has become a major tourist attraction, due partly to the fact that it survived the attacks with only dents and holes.
The Sphere is 25 feet high and cast in 52 bronze segments. Koenig considered it his "biggest child". It was put together in Bremen, Germany and shipped as a whole to Lower Manhattan. The artwork was meant to symbolize world peace through world trade, and was placed at the center of a ring of fountains and other decorative touches designed by trade center architect Minoru Yamasaki to mimic the Grand Mosque of Mecca, Masjid al-Haram, in which The Sphere stood at the place of the Kaaba. It was set to rotate once every 24 hours, and its base became a popular lunch spot for workers in the trade center on days with good weather.
The piece was commissioned by the owner of the World Trade Center, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ), in 1966. The Authority's original choice had been Henry Moore, but Koenig was chosen after architect Minoru Yamasaki saw some of Koenig's work at the Staempfli Gallery in Manhattan. Koenig started work in 1967 in his barn in Bavaria, while the WTC was in the planning stages, and finished it four years later in time for the opening of the towers. Officially titled Große Kugelkaryatide (Great Spherical Caryatid) by the artist, New Yorkers soon nicknamed it The Sphere.
After the attacks on 11 September 2001, upon recovery from the rubble pile the sculpture was dismantled and sent to storage near John F. Kennedy International Airport. Its extraction had been widely covered in local news media in the New York metropolitan area. As it was a memorable feature of the Twin Towers site, there was much discussion about using it in a memorial, especially since it seemed to have come through the attacks relatively unscathed.
German film director Percy Adlon, who had twice previously devoted films to Koenig, made Koenigs Kugel (Koenig's Sphere) at a time when the sculpture's fate was still uncertain. In the film, the artist and the director visit Ground Zero five weeks after the attacks as the former retells the story of its creation. At first, Koenig opposed reinstalling The Sphere, considering it "a beautiful corpse."
The sculpture was eventually returned to Manhattan, and on 11 March 2002, six months to the day after the attacks, it was re-erected in Battery Park, near the Hope Garden, several blocks away from where it once stood. Koenig himself supervised the work; it took four engineers and 15 ironworkers to create a new base. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, his predecessor Rudolph Giuliani and other local officials spoke at a ceremony rededicating it as a memorial to the victims.
"It was a sculpture, now it's a monument," Koenig said, noting how the relatively fragile metal globe had mostly survived the cataclysm. "It now has a different beauty, one I could never imagine. It has its own life – different from the one I gave to it."
According to the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Vickie Karp, the city is looking to relocate The Sphere by summer 2012 when construction will begin to restore the park’s lawn, requiring the sculpture to be moved. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ), which owns The Sphere, is considering placing the sculpture in Liberty Park, which will be located between the 90 West Street building and the World Trade Center Memorial site. Liberty Park won’t be constructed until at least 2013, so a location is needed to place The Sphere until Liberty Park is completed. As of February 2011, PANYNJ had not made an official final decision on where to place the sculpture once Battery Park construction commences, forcing the sculpture to move. Until Liberty Park opens, the Sphere may have to go into storage.
An online petition created by 9/11 families demanding the return of The Sphere to the 9/11 Memorial has gained more than 7,123 signatures as of 23 July 2011.
Officials from the 9/11 Memorial have stated that they do not want any 9/11 artifacts cluttering the 8-acre memorial plaza. There are no plans to place The Sphere on the 9/11 Memorial site. Liberty Park, which is south of the 9/11 Memorial, is not part of or on the site of the 9/11 Memorial.
On 28 June 2012, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey expressed support for the effort to move The Sphere to the plaza of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. After a public comment by Michael Burke during a meeting of the Board of Commissioners, Executive Director Patrick J. Foye stated:
The point that Mr. Burke made resonates with many people in New York and New Jersey and many people here at the Port Authority, especially given the fact that 84 members of the Port Authority family were killed on 9/11. This is an artifact that survived and was affected by the horrors of 9/11, and placing it on the memorial plaza, we think, is entirely appropriate.
— Patrick J. Foye, Port Authority head supports making WTC sphere that survived 9/11 attacks part of memorial, The Washington Post
The Sphere is located on Battery Park, near the Hope Garden and stands as a 9/11 memorial.
A plaque alongside The Sphere reads as follows:
- "For three decades, this sculpture stood in the plaza of the World Trade Center. Entitled "The Sphere", it was conceived by artist Fritz Koenig as a symbol of world peace. It was damaged during the tragic events of 11 September 2001, but endures as an icon of hope and the indestructible spirit of this country. The Sphere was placed here on 11 March 2002 as a temporary memorial to all who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center."
The Sphere with the new One World Trade Center under construction, visible in the distance.
The Sphere at Battery Park.
- Percy Adlon (2001). "Koenig's Sphere". Leora Films, Inc. Retrieved 24 March 2010.
- Kerr, Laurie (28 December 2001). "The Mosque to Commerce: Bin Laden's special complaint with the World Trade Center". Slate (The Washington Post Company). Retrieved 27 January 2009.
- Robert Kolker (28 November 2005). "The Grief Police; No one says the 9/11 families aren't entitled to their pain. But should a small handful of them have the power to reshape ground zero?". New York Magazine. Retrieved 24 March 2010.
- Percy Adlon (15 December 2001). "Koenig's Sphere: The German Sculptor Fritz Koenig at Ground Zero". Bayerischer Rundfunk (BR).
- Shapiro, Julie. "9/11 Family Members Start Petition to Save World Trade Center Sphere". Digital Network Associates dba DNAinfo.com. Retrieved 28 February 2011.
- Chung, Jen. "World Trade Center Sphere's Uncertain Fate Worries 9/11 Families". Gothamist LLC. Retrieved 28 February 2011.
- Haskell, Peter. "Effort Underway To Return Iconic Sphere Sculpture To World Trade Center". CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. Retrieved 5 July 2011.
- "Port Authority head supports making WTC sphere that survived 9/11 attacks part of memorial". The Washington Post. Associated Press. Retrieved 29 June 2012.
- "Memorial Plaque at Battery Park, beneath "The Sphere" Sculpture, now a Temporary Memorial". photo. Flickr. 11 May 2007. Retrieved 24 March 2010.