Monthly Archives: August 2016

Freedom Tower

One World Trade Center, originally the Freedom Tower, New York City

One World Trade Center, originally the Freedom Tower, New York City

Replacing the towers of the World Trade Center that were destroyed on September 11th 2001 was a hugely important and highly controversial part of the United States’ recovery from the attacks.

The landmark structure, One World Trade Center, otherwise known by its original name, the Freedom Tower, was designed by the master planner, Daniel Libeskind.   His plan for the whole site went through an extended series of revisions by the developer’s architect, David Childs of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill.

Libsekind’s original concept had an off-centre spire, suggesting the silhouette of the Statue of Liberty, and an open steel lattice at the top:  he originated the idea that the height should be the symbolic 1,776 feet, a reference to the date of the American Declaration of Independence.

David Childs’ final design has a 200-foot-square footprint and rests on a 185-foot-high windowless base, intended to resist ground-level attacks.  At the twentieth floor the rectangular plan breaks into four chamfers, so that the floor-plan becomes octagonal and then continues to a square diagonally opposed at 45° to the base, so that the sides of the building are in the form of isosceles triangles.

The initial intention to enclose the mast with a radome was cancelled to save costs.

Though the cornerstone was laid in 2004, practical construction began only in 2007.

The tower is 1,776ft high, over 400ft higher than the World Trade Center towers, and topped by a broadcasting antenna that takes its total height over 1,792ft.  It is formally designated as the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, but the CN Tower in Toronto (1,815ft) has the accolade of being the world’s tallest free-standing structure.

The top floor of the Freedom Tower, two storeys above the observation deck, is 1,368 feet high, exactly equal to the roof height of the original World Trade Center towers 1 and 2.  There are actually ninety-four floors, though the top floor is numbered 104.

It was practically completed with the installation of the spire on May 10th 2013 and formally opened on November 3rd 2014.

The views from the top of the Freedom Tower are spectacular – out into New York Harbour, up the narrow island of Manhattan, across to Brooklyn to the east and to the flat expanse of New Jersey to the west.

There is no access to the outside at the top of the Freedom Tower, though, so photographing the view is a frustrating exercise in dodging reflections.

For details of Mike Higginbottom’s lecture The Big Apple:  the architecture of New York City, please click here.

Birthplace of gospel music

Pilgrim Baptist Church, Bronzeville, Chicago

Pilgrim Baptist Church, Bronzeville, Chicago

Buildings by the Chicago architects Dankmar Adler & Louis Sullivan are precious both for their quality and their rarity.  In Chicago itself, their Auditorium Building and the exquisite Getty Tomb are celebrated, but their Old Chicago Stock Exchange Building was demolished in 1972, and one of their most powerful and resonant surviving structures in the city faces an uncertain future.

The Pilgrim Baptist Church in Bronzeville, south of the Loop, was originally built in 1890-1 as the Kehilath Anshe Ma’ariv Synagogue.  Dankmar Adler’s father, Liebman, was rabbi there.

This powerful corner-site building was sold in 1922 to the Pilgrim Baptist Church which had been founded in 1915.  It is celebrated as the birthplace of black gospel music:  its music director from 1932 was Thomas A Dorsey (1899-1993), writer of – among much else – ‘Precious Lord, Take My Hand’.  In 1936-7 the interior was decorated with murals by the African-American painter William Edouard Scott (1884-1864).

Its spectacular interior and excellent acoustics [] derived from the metal-clad timber superstructure  that almost doubled the height of the robust masonry walls, which feature round-arched windows and a monumental entrance, embellished with the inscription, in Hebrew and English, “Open for me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them, to praise the Lord” [Psalm 118 v 19].

When the roof caught fire during restoration work on January 6th 2006 [] the interior was completely destroyed but more than three quarters of the walls survived.  They remain supported by an obtrusive steel scaffold while plans for either a complete restoration or conversion to a memorial garden are stalled by controversy and litigation:

There is an extended essay about the Pilgrim Baptist Church by Lynn Becker, ‘Kaddish for a Legendary Church’, (2005-6).

Undisturbed by Victorian hands: Kirk Malew, Isle of Man

Kirk Malew, Isle of Man

Kirk Malew, Isle of Man

Change comes very slowly in the Isle of Man.

Kirk Malew, the ancient parish church for Castletown, then the capital of the island, probably dates from the twelfth century, though an earlier cell, or keill, probably occupied the site in the centuries before.

The core of the church is a simple rectangle, combining nave and chancel, with a bell turret added c1770.

The chancel was rebuilt in 1781, and two years later a substantial north wing with a raked floor – much more an auditorium than a transept – was added and the entire interior filled with box pews.

A gallery was added for the Billowne family in 1818.

Not only does the interior retain the customary box pews of an eighteenth-century church, it is an odd-shaped space, a T-plan which forces some members of the congregation to face the organ rather than the altar.

The Victorian period brought little change – a window by William Wales of Newcastle (1843) and another signed by the mid-nineteenth century artists Baillie and Mayer.  The old church, dedicated to St Lupus, declined in importance after the opening of St Mary’s in the centre of Castletown, a mile and a half away, in 1828, and Castletown itself lost prestige when the Manx parliament, Tynwald, moved to Douglas in 1869.

Its most recent addition is the Manx artist Bryan Kneale’s monument to Illiam Dhone, “Brown-haired William”, otherwise William Christian, the Receiver of the Island and latterly Governor during the Commonwealth period, executed arbitrarily in 1663.  His nickel-silver bust gazes at the site of his burial in the chancel.

Even though St Lupus’ church is no longer the parish church of Castletown, a tradition remains that each Bishop of Sodor & Man preaches his first and last sermon in the diocese at Kirk Malew.