Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Freedom Tower

A new design for the Freedom Tower, which is to be erected at the site of the World Trade Center:

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The redesigned Freedom Tower at Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan, planned to become America's tallest building, will be a monolithic glass structure reflecting the sky and topped by a sculpted antenna, the architects said on Wednesday.

Symbolic of the Declaration of Independence, the reworked 1,776-foot (541-meter) centerpiece of the World Trade Center site unveiled by architect David Childs will have a 186-foot tall (57 meter) base sheathed with rolled, heat-treated glass over concrete.

The tower is planned as a symbol of New York's revitalization after the September 11 attacks in 2001, which claimed more than 2,700 lives at the World Trade Center.

Rebuilding has been dogged by almost five years of acrimony over designs, security, insurance and control of the 16-acre (6.5-hectare) site at Ground Zero.

Developer Larry Silverstein, who leased the World Trade Center shortly before September 11, told reporters that if everything now goes according to plan, "By 2012 we should have a completely rebuilt World Trade Center more magnificent, more spectacular than it ever was."

The new Freedom Tower design uses a high-tech laminated safety glass, which if attacked by a truck bomb would shatter into falling pebbles, not break into flying shards.

The previous design featured a 200-foot (61-meter) metal and concrete base, added after New York police said the building would be vulnerable to truck bombing. The design was also criticized for looking too bunker-like.

Childs noted there had been fears that security concerns would result in a stone building "with very small windows." But he said the new glass base would create an entirely different feeling.
"You will see that light fracture, bounce back out at you, giving you a wonderful, light artistic space, giving you a warm, friendly space," he said.

The new plan for the building -- construction began in April -- was made after consulting New York police counterterrorism experts as well as state and city officials.

"They've reviewed it and have given it their blessing," Childs said. "This is the finished design."

The exterior glass's triangular rib motif will be echoed throughout the building and on the antenna.

The tower will be surrounded by groups of steps leading to four entrances, serving as a public plaza and buffer zone.

A series of thigh-high rectangular slabs on the site's perimeter -- resembling tombstones in an artist's rendering -- will guard against truck bombs.

The antenna, to be used by radio and television broadcasters, has been given a more sculptural feel by Kenneth Snelson, a sculptor best-known for his Needle Tower, installed in New York's Bryant Park in 1968.

The antenna raises the building from 1,368 feet (410 meters) -- the height of the original World Trade Center's 110-story twin towers -- to the full 1,776 feet.

Unlike most other glass-clad office buildings, the Freedom Tower will appear clear because they will remove the iron, which tints glass green, Kenneth Lewis of architects Skidmore, Owings & Merrill said.

"We've tried to make it more monolithic," he said. "It's reflecting the sky and the changing light's character as the day goes on."

The architects have drastically rethought Daniel Libeskind's original twisting design for the Freedom Tower because it would have been too hard to build and too vulnerable to attack.