The Sphere

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The Sphere
Sphere at Plaza Fountain[a]
The Sphere in Liberty Park in 2018
Installation in Liberty Park, 2018
ArtistFritz Koenig
Dimensions7.6 m (25 ft)
LocationLiberty Park, New York City
CoordinatesCoordinates: 40°42′38″N 74°0′50″W / 40.71056°N 74.01389°W / 40.71056; -74.01389
OwnerPort Authority of New York & New Jersey (PANYNJ)

The Sphere (officially Sphere at Plaza Fountain)[2] is a 25-foot (7.6 m) high, cast bronze sculpture by German artist Fritz Koenig. It is located in Liberty Park at the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan, New York City. Originally located at the Austin J. Tobin Plaza, the centerpiece survived the collapse of the World Trade Center towers, which resulted from the September 11 attacks in 2001.

The Sphere was recovered from the rubble, visibly damaged but largely intact. After being dismantled and stored near a hangar at John F. Kennedy International Airport, the sculpture was the subject of the 2001 documentary Koenig's Sphere. On March 11, 2002, six months after the attack, the sculpture was moved temporarily to Battery Park, where in unrestored condition it was rededicated (September 11, 2002) with an eternal flame.

Having become a major tourist attraction, the unrestored sculpture was rededicated on August 16, 2017 by the Port Authority at a permanent location in Liberty Park, overlooking the September 11 Memorial and its original location.[2]


Original installation in 1979

The Sphere is 25 feet (7.6 m) high and cast in 52 bronze segments.[3] Koenig called it his "biggest child".[3] It was put together in Bremen, West Germany and shipped as a whole to Lower Manhattan.[3]

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 WTC architect Minoru Yamasaki to mimic the Grand Mosque of Mecca, Masjid al-Haram, in which The Sphere stood at the place of the Kaaba.[4]


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.[3] Koenig started work in 1967 while the WTC was in the planning stages, and finished it four years later.[1] Originally titled Grosse Kugelkaryatide N.Y.[a] by the artist,[1] the sculpture was soon referred to as The Sphere.

Location history[edit]

Immediately after 9/11[edit]

The Sphere amidst the ruins of 9/11

After the September 11 attacks, 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 survived the attacks relatively unscathed.[5]

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".[6]

Relocation to Battery Park[edit]

Installation in Battery Park in July 2007

The sculpture was eventually returned to Manhattan, and on March 11, 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 Rudy 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."[7]

A plaque alongside The Sphere read 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 September 11, 2001, but endures as an icon of hope and the indestructible spirit of this country. The Sphere was placed here on March 11, 2002 as a temporary memorial to all who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center.

This eternal flame was ignited on September 11, 2002 in honor of all those who were lost. Their spirit and sacrifice will never be forgotten.[8]

Relocation to Liberty Park[edit]

Installation at Liberty Park in 2017

According to NYC Parks spokeswoman Vickie Karp, the city was looking to relocate The Sphere in summer 2012, when construction began to restore Battery Park's lawn, requiring the sculpture to be moved. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ), which owns The Sphere, considered placing the sculpture in Liberty Park, located between the 90 West Street building and the World Trade Center Memorial site. Liberty Park would not be constructed until at least 2014, so a temporary location was needed to place The Sphere. By February 2011, PANYNJ had not made an official final decision on where to place the sculpture once Battery Park construction commenced, requiring the sculpture to be moved, possibly into storage.[9][10]

An online petition created by 9/11 families demanding the return of The Sphere to the 9/11 Memorial gained more than 7,123 signatures as of March 23, 2011.[11] Officials from the 9/11 Memorial stated that they did not want any 9/11 artifacts cluttering the 8-acre memorial plaza.[9][10] On June 28, 2012, PANYNJ expressed support for the effort to move The Sphere to the plaza of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.[12] 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, head of Port Authority, who supported making The Sphere a part of the 9/11 Memorial, The Washington Post

When Liberty Park opened in June 2016, the question had not been resolved.[13] On July 22, 2016, the Port Authority voted to move the sculpture to Liberty Park,[14][15] and in August 2017, PANYNJ relocated the sculpture to Liberty Park.[16][17] On September 6, 2017, the Sphere was unveiled in its permanent home in Liberty Park, overlooking the World Trade Center site.[18][19] The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey held a ceremony at Liberty Park on November 29, 2017 to mark its return to the World Trade Center site.[20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b German: Grosse Kugelkaryatide N.Y. (Great Spherical Caryatid of New York)[1]


  1. ^ a b c "Fritz Koenig, sculptor whose art withstood 9/11 attack, dies". Associated Press. February 24, 2017. Retrieved September 9, 2019.
  2. ^ a b Otterman, Sharon (November 29, 2017). "Battered and Scarred, 'Sphere' Returns to 9/11 Site". New York Times.
  3. ^ a b c d Percy Adlon (2001). "Koenig's Sphere". Leora Films, Inc. Archived from the original on September 28, 2010. Retrieved September 9, 2019.
  4. ^ Kerr, Laurie (December 28, 2001). "The Mosque to Commerce: Bin Laden's special complaint with the World Trade Center". Slate. The Washington Post Company. Retrieved January 27, 2009.
  5. ^ Robert Kolker (November 28, 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 March 24, 2010.
  6. ^ Percy Adlon (December 15, 2001). "Koenig's Sphere: The German Sculptor Fritz Koenig at Ground Zero". Bayerischer Rundfunk (BR).
  7. ^ Hargittai, I.; Hargittai, M. (2017). New York Scientific: A Culture of Inquiry, Knowledge, and Learning. Oxford University Press. p. 264. ISBN 978-0-19-876987-3. Retrieved September 11, 2019.
  8. ^ "Memorial Plaque at Battery Park, beneath The Sphere Sculpture, now a Temporary Memorial". photo. Flickr. May 11, 2007. Retrieved March 24, 2010.
  9. ^ a b Shapiro, Julie. "9/11 Family Members Start Petition to Save World Trade Center Sphere". Digital Network Associates dba Archived from the original on March 1, 2011. Retrieved February 28, 2011.
  10. ^ a b Chung, Jen. "World Trade Center Sphere's Uncertain Fate Worries 9/11 Families". Gothamist LLC. Archived from the original on February 28, 2011. Retrieved February 28, 2011.
  11. ^ Haskell, Peter. "Effort Underway To Return Iconic Sphere Sculpture To World Trade Center". CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. Retrieved July 5, 2011.
  12. ^ "Port Authority head supports making WTC sphere that survived 9/11 attacks part of memorial". The Washington Post. Associated Press. Archived from the original on November 8, 2018. Retrieved June 29, 2012.
  13. ^ Barone, Vincent (June 30, 2016). "Liberty Park renews debate around Koenig Sphere's home". Retrieved July 10, 2016.
  14. ^ Plagianos, Irene (July 21, 2016). "Koenig Sphere Moving to WTC Liberty Park, Port Authority Says". DNAinfo New York. Archived from the original on August 18, 2017. Retrieved October 1, 2017.
  15. ^ "Port Authority votes to move Koenig Sphere to Liberty Park". Downtown Express. Retrieved July 24, 2016.
  16. ^ Otterman, Sharon (November 29, 2017). "Battered and Scarred, 'Sphere' Returns to 9/11 Site". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved January 8, 2018.
  17. ^ Plitt, Amy (August 17, 2017). "Iconic 'Sphere' sculpture, damaged on 9/11, moves to its permanent home". Curbed NY. Retrieved August 18, 2017.
  18. ^ "The Sphere, a Symbol of Resilience After 9/11, Is Unveiled at Liberty Park". September 6, 2017. Retrieved September 30, 2017.
  19. ^ Warerkar, Tanay (September 6, 2017). "World Trade Center's iconic 'Sphere' sculpture is now on view at Liberty Park". Curbed NY. Retrieved October 1, 2017.
  20. ^ Otterman, Sharon (November 29, 2017). "Battered and Scarred, 'Sphere' Returns to 9/11 Site". New York Times. Retrieved September 11, 2019.

External links[edit]

Google Maps Street View
image icon The Sphere in Battery Park
image icon The Sphere in Liberty Park