OCEAN Design Research Association

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World Center

World Centre for Human Concerns, 2002
Design Study Commissioned by Max Protetch Gallery, New York, USA 
for the exhibition "A new World Trade Center" 
Project Coordinators: Michael Hensel & Birger Sevaldson
Project Members:  Michael Hensel, Birger Sevaldson, Defne Sunguroglu, Lip-Khoon Chiong, Morten Gregersen, Achim Menges and Urban Office - Jeffrey Turko
Digital Animations and Video Rendering: Placebo Effects, Olso: Kim Baumann Larsen
Rapid Prototyping: Institute for Industrial Design @ Oslo School of Architecture: Prof. Steinar Killi and Are Nielsen
to post-humankind[ness] 
The 'human' signifies a strategic, translational sign that gives ground to, or gains ground for, emergent demands for representation, redistribution and responsibility…
Homi K. Bhabha (2011). 'Democracy De-realised'. Berlin Platform, Documenta 11
The World Trade Center is a living symbol of man's dedication to world peace.
Minoru Yamasaki, Chief Architect of the World Trade Center

This project is an homage to the work of Conrad Roland, in particular his unbuilt scheme for the World Trande Center in New York City from 1963-64.

OCEAN NORTH's study for a World Center for Human Concerns for New York proposes a space for all peoples and cultures, whether existing or emergent. The 430 meter tall volume of the World Center provokes a sensuous image of formation, continuity and multiplicity. It remains intelligible whether one single object folds upon itself or divides, or whether two objects are entwined in conflict or fusion. The object is and becomes both one and many at the same time, suggesting the multiplicity and connectedness of human existence.


As a memorial to the drama of 11 September 2001 and a statement against all acts of violence, the volume of the World Center inscribes within itself the volume of Minoru Yamasaki's Twin Towers, which are visible as vague figures through the textured and folded skins of the new building. The World Center's spaces result from the draping and folding of the building skin around the volume of the twin towers and articulates the building volume as a set of interstitial spaces that escape a singular spatial hierarchy and homogenous relation between the built environment and its inhabitants. On the contrary, the design commences from the notion that dynamic relations between material object and human subject establish a potential space in which social, cultural and political experience can be located. The differential material geometry of the object enables a spatial politic of provisional experiential formations - both individual and collective - and yields their differentiation, proliferation and distribution.

OCEAN WTC_Elevations

Every viewpoint grants a distinguished view of the object. Every route into and through the building provides a varied sequence of spatial experiences. The tension between formal and organisational ambiguity and articulation grants in every location a unique experience for the human subject. The scheme's surface geometry articulates spaces, while its material make-up and striated articulation - similar to the one of to the previous Twin Towers - enables a modulated transparency of both the skin and the spaces within and beyond it. Together, the combined differential formal and material articulation and circulation space enhance the differential experience.

OCEAN WTC_Diagrams

The scheme abandons the common high-rise organisation of central service and circulation-cores and uses instead the building skin as a space for circulation, with 120 vertical circulation channels nested within it - resulting in an infinite number of ways of getting around the building and social encounters en route. The basket-like circulation channel system is developed into a structural principle, resulting in a system that will be less vulnerable to local disruption. Common structural cores withstand impact through rigidity and are limited in accepting disruption and deformation, the scheme's basket-like structure is tough and can be disrupted and deformed to a much greater extend.

Instead of an impossible horizontal expansion of Manhattan and the obvious difficulties with vertical growth, the scheme proposes a 'thickening' of the space of existing buildings by adding layers around them. With this approach arises a need for rethinking the question of daylight in deep plans and structures. By questioning an equal need for daylight, differentiated interior habitats can be articulated instead. Rainforests and the oceans serve as organisational models, where even in the lowest and darkest regions micro-ecologies flourish. This suggests a redefinition of what constitutes a 24-hour city. So far this notion implied available programmes around the clock. The alternative entails diverse daylight conditions at all times. The darker core constitutes a 24-hour night program zone, while the outer and peripheral areas enable a flexible negotiation of programs relative to less constant ambient conditions.


Through the above-described approach the scheme seeks at this stage to be provocative and projective towards emergent social and institutional arrangements. In further pursuing this aim other design practices, engineers and experts will be invited to join the collaborative effort of developing the design of the scheme. In recognizing the enormous size of the scheme, it becomes soon evident that this project must be treated as a piece of city that emerges from the collective efforts of many contributors.

The first phase models and prints of the World Centre for Human Concerns (2002), produced for the ‘A New World Trade Centre Exhibition' at the Max Protetch Gallery, are archived in the Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress in the United States.

ocean web WorldCenter RapidSteel

Rapid-steel model

OCEAN WorldCenter

Rapid prototype Model


Publications by members of OCEAN

Hensel M. (2004). ‘Finding Exotic Form: An Evolution of Form-finding as a Design Method’, Emergence: Morphogenetic Design Strategies, AD Architectural Design Vol. 74, 3: 26 – 33.

Hensel, M. (2004). ‘Curvature Logic’. Byggekunst 02/2004: 16-29.

Hensel, M. (2003). ‘Re: Cognition – Approaching the Generative Function of the Unfamiliar’. Communication & Cognition Vol. 36, 3 & 4: 243-261.

Other Publications

OCEAN – Conception Performative Exhibition Catalogue. (2008). FRAC Centre Orleans, France.

OCEAN NORTH – World Centre for Human Concerns. (2006). Impressions 8/9 BMED British Airways, London: 2.

Future City – Experiments and Utopia in Architecture 1956-2006. (2006) Exhibition Catalogue, Barbican Centre, London.

Skov Holt, S. and Skov Holt, M. (2005). Blobjects & Beyond – The New Fluidity in Design. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 170 and 190-191.

Protetch, M. Ed. (2004). A New World Trade Center – Design Proposals from leading Architects Worldwide. New York: Regan Books Harper Collins, 110-111.

Suzanne, S., Luna I. and Broadhurst, R. Eds. (2004). Imagining Ground Zero. New York: Rizzoli, 138.

Saetre, S. (2002). ‘Kreativ debatt om Ground Zero’, Aftenposten 13 February 2002: 16.

Burkeman, O. (2002). ‘What architects believe should rise from the ashes of the World Trade Center Site’, The Guardian 19 January 2002: 5.

‘Stars Vision for NY’, Building Design: 18 January, 2002: 1.


2010: Facilitating the Empirical – Rapid Prototyping in Architecture and Design @ AHO, Oslo, Norway, 10 Feb – 03 Mar.

2008-09: YOUniverse – 3rd International Seville Biennial of Contemporary Art @ Monastera de Ntra. Sra. De las Cuevas, Seville, Spain 02 Oct – 11 Jan.

2008: Conception Performative @ FRAC Centre Orléans, Orléans, France, 08 Feb – 15 June.

2006: Future City – Experiment and Utopia in Architecture 1956-2006 @ Barbican Art Gallery, Barbican Centre, London, England, 15 Jun – 17 Sep.

2005: Blobjects and Beyond: The New Fluidity in Design @ San Jose Museum of Art, San Jose, California, United States, 06 Mar – 10 July.

2004-05: New Trends in Architecture in Europe and Asia-Pacific @ Melbourne, Australia, Aug – Sep 05. Cork, Ireland, Jun – Jul 05. Tokyo, Japan, Apr – May 05. Hong Kong, China, Jan 05. 

2004: New Trends in Architecture in Europe and Asia-Pacific @ Melbourne Euralille, France, Oct 04.

2004: Architectural Biennial Beijing 2004 _ Machinic Design @ International Exhibition Centre, Beijing, Peoples Republic of China, Sep – Oct.

2003: Performative Morphologies @ AHO – Oslo School of Architecture and Design, Oslo, Norway, Nov – Dec.

2003: - A New World Trade Centre – Design Proposals @ DAM Deutsches Architekturmuseum, Frankfurt, Germany, 26 Feb – 04 Apr.

2003: Contours: Evolutionary Strategies in Design @ Architectural Association, London, England, Feb - Mar.

2002-03: Latent Utopias - Styrian Autumn 2002 @ Landesmuseum Graz, Graz, Austria, Oct 02 - Mar 03.

2002: 8thVenice Architecture Biennale - A New World Trade Centre @ American Pavilion, Venice, Italy, Sep – Oct.

2002: A New World Trade Centre – Models, Drawings and Design Proposals @ National Building Museum, Washington DC, United States, Apr – Jun.

2002: A New World Trade Centre – 50 Architects @ Max Protetch Gallery, New York, United States, Jan – Feb.