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  • New York Times - 1,776-Foot Design Is Unveiled for World Trade Center Tower
    December 20, 2003 - By DAVID W. DUNLAP

After fervent public debate over how to mend the New York City skyline and a five-month effort by competing architectural giants that was one part collaboration and two parts quarrel, the design of the first tower of the new World Trade Center was unveiled yesterday.

The torqued and tapering skyscraper, called the Freedom Tower, would rise some 70 stories, then dematerialize in its upper reaches among cables, windmills and antennas before piercing the clouds at 1,776 feet. At this height, it might be the world's tallest building upon completion in 2008 or 2009.

"We will build it to show the world that freedom will always triumph over terror and that we will face the 21st century with confidence," Gov. George E. Pataki said. "This is not just a building. This is a symbol of New York. This is a symbol of America. This is a symbol of freedom."

Only a week ago, the governor had to intervene personally to ensure that the relationship between the two architects, Daniel Libeskind and David M. Childs of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, would stay on track long enough to yield a design to which they could both lay claim.

Yesterday, Mr. Childs and Mr. Libeskind joined Mr. Pataki in pulling a cord at Federal Hall National Memorial to reveal a glistening, nine-foot acrylic model of the Freedom Tower. There was room enough along the cord for Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and the developer, Larry A. Silverstein, to join them.

The new design retains hallmarks from Mr. Libeskind's original vision of Freedom Tower, which has been in the public eye for a year as part of his master plan for the trade center site. Above a slanting roof, an offset spire would reach 1,776 feet.

But the design more clearly shows the hand of Mr. Childs, who is working for Mr. Silverstein. Its basic parallelogram plan would follow the downtown street grid. The facade, without setbacks, would twist on two ends as it rose. Atop the enclosed building would be an open-air superstructure framed in cables and supported by twin pillars on which large windmills would be mounted. These might generate 20 percent of the building's electricity. Beneath the superstructure, diners at a new Windows on the World might sit under skylights looking up at the intricate cable network stretching hundreds of feet above, Mr. Childs said.

David Emil, whose company ran the restaurant atop the north tower of the trade center, welcomed the idea. "Windows had a place in the imagination of New York," he said. "When the time is right, we would love to talk with Larry Silverstein about leasing the space. We'd love to work on creating a great new restaurant there, though we couldn't recreate the original."

Mr. Childs brought the cabled imagery of the Brooklyn Bridge to a tower that Mr. Libeskind meant to conjure the Statue of Liberty, with its upraised, torch-bearing arm. Mr. Childs suggested that the Freedom Tower's newfound torque would complement the dynamic, striding form of the colossus in the harbor.

For his part, Mr. Libeskind said yesterday that the building that had emerged from his creative struggle with Mr. Childs would be a "beacon of light and hope in a world that is often dark."

Silvery and permeable, perhaps even ghostly and ethereal, the Freedom Tower would also inevitably be a reminder of what was lost on Sept. 11, 2001.

In its hybrid design, Freedom Tower is meant to do two things: re-establish a skyscraping pinnacle at the tip of Manhattan, which still seems so bereft, while acknowledging how few people would feel comfortable working or visiting at the altitude of the twin towers, which were 1,368 and 1,362 feet.

The highest point of the occupied part of the Freedom Tower would be about 1,150 feet. Even the crownlike truss of the superstructure, at 1,500 feet, would fall below the antenna atop 1 World Trade Center, which rose to 1,750 feet.
But the 276-foot spire on the southwest corner would break the city's record and, if counted as part of the building, would exceed Taipei 101 in Taiwan.

Freedom Tower would have 2.6 million square feet of office space — more than the Empire State Building — with a total approaching 2.8 million square feet if mechanical and below-ground spaces are counted. It would cost more than $1 billion, financed by insurance proceeds. It would be built by the Tishman Construction Corporation, which constructed the original twin towers.

Mr. Silverstein said yesterday that Governor Pataki had asked that the cornerstone for the Freedom Tower be laid by the third anniversary of the attack. Though this falls within two weeks of the Republican National Convention, Mr. Pataki said in a telephone interview that there was "zero" connection.

"We have to continue to have timelines here," the governor said. "The middle of September is something that's extremely ambitious. It obviously has nothing to do with the convention, which will be long gone." "This is not a political structure," Mr. Pataki said, "and it will not be a political event."

The governor's next milestone is Sept. 11, 2006, for the topping out, or completion, of the steel framework. Mr. Silverstein said he would do his "damnedest" to meet it. He said the tower would be finished in 2008 or 2009, to be followed annually by the four other office buildings planned at the site.

Freedom Tower would rise north of the planned memorial, on a block bounded by West and Vesey Streets and the recreated Greenwich and Fulton Streets. Though the design is still preliminary — it was being substantively revised as recently as last weekend — the unveiling permitted the first meaningful glimpse around and inside what would be a modern landmark.

Under the tower would be a shopping concourse and a network of passageways, including a connection to the new PATH terminal.

Offices would occupy about 60 floors. Carl Weisbrod, the president of the Alliance for Downtown New York, said the Freedom Tower would be marketable to traditional downtown tenants like financial and law firms and new tenants like media companies and advertising agencies.

At the summit of the building, plans show a broadcast center, an observation deck and three floors of restaurant and event space under the sloping roof. There might be another observation platform within the superstructure.
The facade would be a faceted grid of narrow diagonal crisscrosses formed by cables in the superstructure and slender columns across the main facade. The north and south sides would rise up as sheer planes. The east and west ends would twist. The core of the building would be concrete.

These features would contribute to stability and structural resilience, Mr. Childs said, referring obliquely to an ever-present but virtually unspoken concern about the high vulnerability of such a tower to a terrorist attack. It would "probably be the safest building in the world," he said.

News of the design was carried first on the "Today" program yesterday morning before the unveiling at Federal Hall on Wall Street. A spokeswoman for Governor Pataki, who was on the program, said NBC was the only national or local news outlet to request his appearance.

Those who gathered at Federal Hall generally gave the Childs-Libeskind collaboration high — or at least passing — marks. "Though it was a forced marriage, I think it worked out astonishingly well," said Kent L. Barwick, the president of the Municipal Art Society.

Madelyn Wils, the chairwoman of the Lower Manhattan community board, said the building represented the resilient spirit of "all those people who put their feet down and said, `This is the place where I want to be.' "
As to the wind turbines high in the sky, she said, "There is no better place than that to include windmills, because it's one of the windiest spots in New York."

Glenn Collins contributed reporting for this article.