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.

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