The USA’s tallest building shoulders one of the nation’s greatest challenges: paying tribute to lives lost in one of the country’s greatest tragedies. One World Trade Center in lower Manhattan has yet to be completed and yet has still recently been condemned by a number of critics, who cite the former “Freedom Tower” as an inspirational failure. Thirteen years after the attacks, the wider site at ground zero also remains plagued by red tape and bureaucratic delays, unfinished and as-yet-unbuilt World Trade Centers, Calatrava’s $5B transit hub, and an absence of reverence, according to critics. Read some of the most potent reviews of the new World Trade Center site from the press in our compilation after the break.
Recently, ArchDaily editors received an interesting request from an anonymous Communications Director of an unnamed New York firm, asking us “In your reporting, please do not repeat as fact, or as “official,” the opinion that One World Trade Center in New York will be the tallest building in the United States.” He or she goes on to explain that the decision maker who ‘announced’ the building as the tallest in the US, the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH), is not officially endorsed by the AIA or the US Government, and that while their work is beneficial for architecture and cities as a whole, their criteria for height evaluation are flawed and have been criticized by many in the industry.
The desire to have the tallest building in a city, country or even the world goes back to at least the medieval period, when competing noble families of Italian hill towns such as San Gimignano would try to out-do each other’s best construction efforts (jokes about the Freudian nature of such contests are, I imagine, not much younger). Perhaps the greatest symbol of this desire is the decorative crown of the Chrysler Building, which was developed in secret and enabled the building to briefly take the prize as the world’s tallest, much to the surprise and ire of its competitors at the time.
With this competitive spirit apparently still very much alive, I thought it might be worthwhile to address the issue raised by our anonymous friend.
Set to open to the public on Wednesday after a highly controversial and contested journey from idea to reality, the September 11 Memorial Museum has inevitably been a talking point among critics this week. The museum by Davis Brody Bond occupies the space between the Memorial Plaza at ground level and the bedrock below, with an angular glass pavilion by Snøhetta providing an entrance from above. A long ramp, designed to recall the access ramp with which tons of twisted metal was excavated from the site, descends to the exhibits which sit within the perimeter boundaries of the twin towers’ foundations, underneath the suspended volumes of Michael Arad‘s memorial fountains.
The content of the museum is obviously fraught with painful memories, and the entrance pavilion occupies a privileged position as the only surface level structure ground zero, in opposition to the great voids of the memorial itself. The discussion at the opening of the museum was therefore always going to center on whether the design of the museum – both its built form and the exhibitions contained – were sensitive and appropriate enough for this challenging brief. Read the critics’ takes on the results after the break.
With completion in sight (May 2014), Davis Brody Bond has released detailed information on the design of the subterranean 9/11 Memorial Museum in Manhattan. Located beneath the sculptural voids that form the 9/11 Memorial, the new museum has transformed a fixed set of geometric constraints into an emotional journey that gently descends visitors 70 feet below the ground level to the original foundations of the World Trade Center towers.
Today, TIME unveiled “Top of America,” a multimedia site relaying the gripping story of One World Trade, the David Childs-designed skyscraper that stands 1,776-feet tall within Daniel Libeskind‘s masterplan. Beyond providing interesting tidbits of information (did you know that both an 18th century boat and an ice-age formation were found while digging out the building’s foundations?), the article, written by Josh Sanburn, is a fascinating and often deeply moving account — one that gets across the sheer force of will and the extraordinary amount of collaboration it took to raise this building into the atmosphere:
“Nine governors, two mayors, multiple architects, a headstrong developer, thousands of victims’ families and tens of thousands of neighborhood residents fought over this tiny patch of real estate…. Almost 13 years later…. America’s brawny, soaring ambition—the drive that sent pioneers west, launched rockets to the moon and led us to build steel-and-glass towers that pierced the clouds—is intact. Reaching 1,776 ft. has ensured it.”
TIME’s investment into the story was considerable (and, one can speculate, motivated by a desire to rival the fantastic multimedia features of The New York Times). The site is accompanied by a special issue of TIME, a documentary film, an unprecedented 360-degree interactive photograph, and – come April – even a book. Sanburn was not only granted exclusive access to the project for about a year, but photographer Jonathan Woods is the only journalist to have ascended to the skyscraper’s top. Woods, start-up Gigapan, and mechanical engineers worked over eight months to design (on AutoCAD no less) a 13-foot long, rotating jib that could sustain a camera in the harsh conditions at the top of the tower’s 408-ft. spire; over 600 images were then digitally stitched together to create the 360-degree interactive photograph (which you can purchase here. A portion of the proceeds go to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum).
You can explore TIME’s interactive at TIME.com/wtc . Click after the break to watch some incredible videos from the project & read some particularly moving quotes from Sanburn’s article.
Slowly, and surely not lacking critique, Santiago Calatrava’s transport hub rises $2 billion over budget, SOM’s Freedom Tower — now, more mundanely referred to as 1WTC — is recognized as the tallest building in the western hemisphere and there is still a considerable amount of development yet to be done on the World Trade Center. Read Edwin Heathcote’s article on the Financial Times regarding the good, the bad and the ugly: ”Rebuilding the World Trade Center: A Progress Report.”