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Debate begins on rebuilding towers

NEW YORK (CNN) - The author of a book about the World Trade Center called the Twin Towers a marvel of sculpture, but said they should not be rebuilt.

Eric Darton, the author of "Divided We Stand: a Biography of New York's World Trade Center," said the building was flawed in many ways.

Darton, who spent eight years writing the book, said one of the buildings biggest problems was that it was impossible to evacuate it quickly.

"I don't think it was ever really safe," he told CNN Sunday. "Even in the best of times, it is an arguable question as to whether you might have been better off in a New York City public housing project if there were a fire than in the Port Authority."

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During the 1960s, when the buildings were designed, protecting them from acts of terrorism was not on anyone's radar, Darton said.

The decision to reoccupy the buildings after the 1993 attack that killed six people and wounded hundreds was "an unconscionable act," he said. "The buildings were clearly a target, and in my view, if you build a target, they will shoot."

Architect: Design sound

Aaron Swirsky, one of the architects who helped Minoru Yamasaki design the building, said the 1993 attack proved the design was sound.

The towers were "built as a pipe," with the steel frame of its exterior facade supporting the buildings, he told CNN.

The towers were designed to survive a hit by a plane, but the aircraft that struck the towers Tuesday were much bigger and carried more fuel than airliners in use when they were built, Swirsky said.

"It was something completely unforeseen, so far as the design criteria was (concerned)," Swirsky said. "The criterion was that if a plane hits, it would go right through it... the towers were protected in such away that the damage would be limited to one story, but it wouldn't travel to the other stories."

Structural criticisms aside, a building that squeezed millions of square feet of office space into a 16-acre area was not made for its inhabitants, Darton said.

The building was "a very strange and disconcerting place to live and work and be," said, who recommended that New Yorkers spend at least a year debating what to do with the area before making any decisions.

That discussion has already started.

Some think rebuilding the 110-story towers would invite more terrorist attacks, but others propose doing just that -- erecting another set of highrises just like those that now lay in dust and rubble.

"It would be the tragedy of tragedies not to rebuild this part of New York," developer Larry Silverstein, who paid $3.2 billion in 1999 for a 99-year lease of the complex, told the Wall Street Journal. "The city is not dead and can't be allowed to die. We owe [rebuilding] to our children and our grandchildren."

Monument or target?

Henry Guthard, the engineer who managed the construction of the towers, told The Associated Press that if the towers are not replaced, the area would be "a monument to terrorism."

"These are not just office buildings. These are icons of America," Guthard said. "If it were to be built as a brand-new building of the same appearance it would be a monument to the spirit of New York, the power and strength of New York and America."

New York Sen. Charles Schumer said the must be rebuilt and include a monument to the victims of the terrorist attack.

"We must build something grand there," Schumer said Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation."

"I look out at the skyline from the window of my house in Brooklyn and I feel violated," he said.

Darton said he also missed seeing the towers from his windows, though he initially disliked the sight.

"I fell in love with the people who cared about building it, who worked in it, who cleaned it," Darton said. "I eventually fell in love with the strange noises it made when you went to the rest room and you were next to the elevator shaft and you'd hear this incredible Pan pipe sounds of the winds howling down. It was almost like the building was playing music. How could you not fall in love with such a building?

"Did I approve of it being built? Would I reoccupy it? Of course not. But you wouldn't want to lose it that way. It was a problematic friend, but you wouldn't want to lose that friend."

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