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New Design Unveiled for Freedom Tower
By DAvid W. Dunlap & Glenn Collins
A rendering of the redesigned Freedom Tower. Photo Courtesy Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP

With one eye on terrorism and another on what has already been lost to terrorists, New York officials unveiled a redesigned Freedom Tower today whose height and proportion, centered antenna and cut-away corners, tall lobbies and pinstripe facade evoke - both deliberately and coincidentally - the sky-piercing twins it is meant to replace.

The new design for the 82-story signature building at the World Trade Center site in Lower Manhattan calls for an almost impermeable and impregnable 200-foot concrete and steel pedestal, clad in ornamental metalwork and set at least 65 feet away from Route 9A, the heavily trafficked state highway that runs along the west edge of ground zero.

This enormous pedestal would overlook the Sept. 11 memorial. Above it would be a tapering tower of glass - some panes laminated and several layers thick - with 69 office floors topped by a restaurant, indoor and outdoor observation decks and an antenna within a trellis-like sculpture that would bring the structure's total height to 1,776 feet.

That symbolic height is one of the few elements left intact from the building first envisioned in 2002 by the architect Daniel Libeskind, the site's master planner, and designed in 2003 by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. Gone are the asymmetrical spire, torqued form, parallelogram floor plan, energy-producing windmills, suspension cables, lacy facade and open-air arcade.

The new design for Freedom Tower was presented formally at a televised news conference in Lower Manhattan today that was attended by Gov. George E. Pakati and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, as well as David M. Childs of Skidmore, the building's chief architect, Mr. Libeskind and Larry A. Silverstein, the building's developer.

The new Freedom Tower "is going to restore and reclaim our skyline," Governor Pataki said, adding that it would become "a symbol of America." Its lighted spire "is a replica of the torch of freedom that soars to the sky," he said, referring to the Statue of Liberty.

Mayor Bloomberg said construction of the tower "will climax the greatest comeback in the history of our city."

The hurried redesign has pushed the completion date of the Freedom Tower back by one or two years, to 2010. It is unclear what effect it will have on the budget, which has been estimated at $1.5 billion, since the extra security measures will add to costs, while the overall simplification of the structure may cut down on time and money.

The latest transformation was driven by the New York Police Department's insistence that the building be more resistant to attack, particularly from car and truck bombs.

"I think it will be very safe," Governor Pataki said. "In fact, if one of those giant corporations that Larry lures to the Freedom Tower occupies the top floors and wants to hire one of my kids, I'd be honored to have them working there and be confident in their safety."

The new design was also intended to preserve as much as possible of the foundation design that had already consumed months of work. This includes threading the tower's underground columns among the looping outbound tracks of the World Trade Center PATH station.

Given those requirements, and the goal of maintaining the building's overall 2.6 million square foot floor area, the redesigned Freedom Tower almost naturally assumed some dimensions of the original twin towers, Mr. Childs said in an interview.

Though uncanny, it was not an unwelcome turn, he said. In fact, adjustments and refinements have been made to underscore the similarities. For example, the altitude of the floor of the rooftop observation deck would be set at 1,362 feet, the height of 2 World Trade Center. The rooftop parapet would reach 1,368 feet, the height of No. 1.

Setting aside his publicly expressed enthusiasm for the first Freedom Tower, Mr. Childs said of the new one, "It is a rare moment when new is better." He added: "I feel better about this than the original. The building is simpler, architecturally. It is unique, yet it subtly recalls, in the sky, the tragedy that has happened here."

Mr. Libeskind also praised the new design. "The tower we have now is even better than the tower we had before," he said at the news conference. "It asserts what the site is all about. The tower relates to the memorial, and rises in a symbolic way."

At its base, the Freedom Tower would be 200 feet square, like the twin towers and the two voids that are to be created in their place as part of the Sept. 11 memorial. Mr. Childs said the new building's "most important role is being a marker in the sky of the memorial."

But he did not back away from the notion that it is still intended to be a statement of defiance, strength and resolve in the face of terrorism. Mr. Childs referred to the Freedom Tower several times as a "victory column" and invoked Cleopatra's Needle in Central Park and Nelson's Column at Trafalgar Square in London as precedents.

Like 7 World Trade Center, now under construction across Vesey Street, the Freedom Tower would essentially be two buildings in one: a utility-filled concrete pedestal topped by an office tower with a glass curtain wall.

The first 30 feet of the 200-foot-tall pedestal would be completely solid, with no windows. The next 50 feet would have some openings, allowing light to be brought into the lobby from above. The rest of the base would be occupied by mechanical equipment.

Stainless steel, titanium or aluminum panels would mask the concrete wall at the Freedom Tower, Mr. Childs said, much as a stainless-steel screen by James Carpenter Design Associates covers the base of 7 World Trade Center.

Office tenants would enter the building from the north or south, through lobbies on Fulton and Vesey Streets. Visitors headed to the observation decks would arrive across a plaza on the west side of the building. Diners would approach from a plaza on the east.

Almost four acres of open space would surround the Freedom Tower. It would share the block with the performing arts center being designed by Frank Gehry.

The main shaft of the Freedom Tower would begin as a 200-by-200-foot square. As it rose, the corners would be cut away, creating an octagonal floor plan through the middle of the building. ("And eight corner offices," Mr. Childs noted.) Toward the top, the plan would assume a square shape again, 140 by 140 feet.

Depending on the viewer's perspective, the structure might appear to be as rectangular as the original twin towers. Seen from an oblique angle, however, it would appear to slope like an obelisk. Each of the eight planes in its main facade would be an elongated isosceles triangle that would catch and reflect the light from a different angle.

The only externally visible separation between the window bays would be vertical stainless-steel elements known as mullions. The horizontal floor separations would not be expressed on the facade. This pinstripe effect might also recall the trade center to some.

The unusual shape will "confuse the wind," Mr. Childs said, making the building more structurally sound than if it had been a "large square sail" catching the wind at the top. The tapering corners yield ultimately to a narrower square at the top, 140 feet on each side, which will be the base for the spire and the antenna system.

Mr. Childs emphasized that the 408-foot spire and its setting have yet to be fully designed. But it has been decided that the spire will bring the tower's over-all height to 1,776 feet, the symbolically patriotic height proposed by Mr. Libeskind and insisted upon by Governor Pataki. The spire and its cabled supports will be designed to be "a functional piece of sculpture, a piece of civic art of an unusual scale," Mr. Childs said.

The architects are working on a distinctive, silver-or-white structural wrap for the spire, that would enclose the television antenna elements with fiberglass or carbon, substances that would not interfere with emanating radio waves. Currently, a tusk-shaped spire is being envisioned.

The spire is to be braced with guy wires - also woven from fiberglass or carbon - that would be anchored to a circular crown atop the observatory. The entire structure will be lit from within and programmed with shifting patterns of lights, or even a single heavenward beam.

To Mr. Libeskind, the circular new cable-anchor structure bears similarity to the base of the flame of the Statue of Liberty; others have likened its shape to that of the summit of the Empire State Building.

The architects struggled to unveil the redesigned building only seven weeks after Governor Pataki announced - during a luncheon speech to the Association for a Better New York on May 12 - that the tower would have to be reconfigured, and fortified, to respond to security concerns raised by the New York Police Department.

Mr. Childs said that the tower would meet or exceed the recent building-safety design recommendations announced by a federal panel, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, earlier this month, after an analysis of the factors that caused the collapse of the twin towers in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Elevators, sprinkler systems and electrical conduits in the new structure will all be protected in a central core of 2-foot-thick concrete. And an extra stairway will be provided for rescue workers to enter the building even while tenants are leaving.

But the chief Freedom Tower design change, driving other architectural considerations, was to harden the base of the tower against vehicle-borne explosives, since cars and trucks have proven to be an effective way of delivering large explosive charges. The new building is to have a solid concrete core with walls more than 2 feet thick, and a robustly redundant braced steel frame.

The original standoff, or setback from West Street, was 25 feet, which the police said was inadequate to protect the building from a large truck bomb. The new tower has been moved 65 feet back from West Street at its Fulton Street side, and 125 feet from the highway at Vesey Street.

The 80-foot-high lobby of the new Freedom Tower will be comparable to the World Trade Center lobbies' 79-foot height. The south lobby, facing Fulton Street, will be the main office entrance, since it faces the memorial. It will present a glass, cable-tensioned wall to visitors - similar to the lobby facade of Mr. Childs's Time Warner Center - but confront them with a solid concrete security wall (covered with art) that would have to be circumnavigated by pedestrians to obtain access to the building.

The tower's base would be clad with an intricate pattern of interlocking reflective sheets of titanium, steel or aluminum, "designed to catch and reflect the light," Mr. Childs said. "As the sun moves about it, each facade will be illuminated."

"I hope this can answer those who were worried that this would be a foreboding building," Mr. Childs said of the new security constraints.

Above the base, the glass sheathing of the building will be hardened against explosive overpressures with tempered, multilaminated sheets of blast-resistant plastic, especially on the west facade facing West Street-Route 9A. Thanks to the use of low-iron, water-white glass - panes that minimize the conventional greenish hue - the sections of laminate will be just as transparent as glass on the other facades, "so the building will look the same on all four sides - a continuous glass top," Mr. Childs said.

In the end, Mr. Childs said, the new building represents "the positive element of what was lost," he said. "It takes on its most important role as being the pylon marker for the memorial."






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