Opinion

Checking up on World Trade Center Architecture

The New York Times' image of construction progress at the WTC site (click through for the full infographic)

Osama Bin Laden is dead, but that doesn’t mean the vestiges of 9/11’s impact on New York City are completely healed. With an infographic, the New York Times checks up on the most visible reminder of the event, the remains of Ground Zero and the construction of new World Trade Center buildings. Check out the full image above.

What we see is that 1 World Trade Center, the trademark building of the complex originally designed by Daniel Libeskind and now managed by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, is the most visible sign of recovery. The tower has hit the halfway point in its steel structure and is being built up at the rate of one floor per week. An AP photo on the Times article shows a glass facade slowly rising on the building, echoed by this December 2010 BBC video walkthrough.

World Trade Center site construction progress, with the monument below and 1 World Trade Center at right (image via wtc.com)

It’s instructive to compare the renderings of the full development to the in-progress shot at top. See the idealized version at left. 4 World Trade Center is the only other skyscraper currently under construction, with numbers 2 and 3 still not visible. As of March 2011, One World Trade Center was at 58 stories with glass on the 30th floor and Tower Four was up around 20 stories The New York Times notes that progress might be slow: purchasing of WTC office space is only hesitant at present, so “a full rebuilding of the site is still several years away, when (and if) demand for office space improves.” The site’s memorial, visible in the foreground of the photo and marked off by a dotted line, is set to open by September 11 2011, to mark the attack ten years ago.

Calatrava's WTC PATH station (image via nj.com)

Of course, the reconstruction of the entire World Trade Center site has been fraught with architectural and design conflicts, over too-high budgets, overly avant-garde designs and property rights. One structure, Santiago Calatrava’s design for the WTC PATH Station, became a particular focus of the arguments over the WTC’s future. Calatrava’s design was widely hailed as the most architecturally adventurous, symbolically significant element of the WTC development. Rendered as a wide open, light space in the form of a skeletal bird lifting its wings, the station was gradually re-designed to fit both budget constraints and the tastes of with developer Larry Silverstein, who owns the lease for the World Trade Center site.

Despite the controversy, Calatrava’s phoenix-like structure is gradually rising as well. As of March 1, 2011, over 225 of the 300 steel pieces which make up the roof of the station have been installed, according to the new York and New Jersey Port Authority website. Along with a symbolic victory over Bin Laden, we should also be celebrating New York City’s gradual architectural recovery.

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