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.
From Richard Lacayo's introduction:
"No doubt the new building’s official dedication will open the way to a necessary debate over its merits as architecture and urbanism, its turbulent design history and the compromises made over the long years it took to get the thing built. But in one important respect, One World Trade Center has already succeeded. It has reclaimed the sky. And this is the view from there."
On the challenges faced during construction:
"As the years passed and the delays mounted, it was impossible not to wonder, What’s taking so long? And worse, Have we lost the capacity to rebuild? The answer, in part, was just beneath the surface: 10,000 workers attempting one of the most complicated construction projects ever in one of the most densely populated places on the planet. The design, almost entirely Childs’, called for a 104-story tower that includes a bomb-resistant 20-story base set on 70-ton shafts of steel and pilings sunk some 200 ft. into the earth. This unseen subterranean structure would support 48,000 tons of steel — the equivalent of 22,500 full-size cars — and almost 13,000 exterior glass panels sheathing a concrete core crowned by a 408-ft. spire whose beacon would glow at the symbolic height of 1,776 ft. (eclipsing Chicago’s Willis Tower as the tallest building in the western hemisphere). The structure includes enough concrete to lay a sidewalk from Manhattan to Chicago. And that was just one part of a 16-acre project that was the equivalent of building five Empire State Buildings on a plot of land the size of a suburban shopping mall — while tens of thousands of commuters traveled under the work zone each day."David Childs: [One World Trade] "has been 'the most complicated manufacturing event which is never to be repeated. I mean, it’s a onetime event.'"
"One challenge was to build around the PATH train, a major artery linking New York to New Jersey, without disturbing the infrastructure. The solution, requiring 18 months of planning, was to proceed by hand, without heavy machinery. 'You had people down there with picks and shovels and mini-excavators, maybe digging a foot a night,' says Dan Tishman, vice president of Tishman Construction, which manages construction at the site. 'It was a surgical approach.'”
"'Literally the first thing — and I don’t exaggerate by saying the first thing — we were digging and we found human remains that were missed,' recalls Steve Plate, the Port Authority’s director of construction for the site. The remains had been hidden for almost five years, packed inside buried sewer pipes by the force of the collapsing towers. Over the years, some workers found shoes. Others unearthed wallets. Medical examiners became a regular presence on the site, sifting through debris and isolating material that appeared to contain human DNA. In the early days of excavation, such grim discoveries happened almost daily."
“'Everything we do, everything we deal with, is heavy,' says O’Reilly. 'The entire day is a struggle, and your body gets beat down. It’s like being in the NFL. Every muscle aches. When you get home, you’re shot.' It didn’t help that some ironworkers labored seven days a week, 10 hours a day, to maintain the pace of construction. Many worked 50 days straight."
"On Oct. 29, as Hurricane Sandy made a hard left turn toward the rising tower, the Port Authority scrambled to prevent the site from becoming Manhattan’s newest lake. When the storm hit, the massive holes that workers had spent years digging turned into street-level cataracts. 'Niagara Falls is probably an exaggeration,' recalls Plate, the Port Authority’s director of construction. 'But there was something of a rapids penetrating the site.'”