Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Freedom Tower Announced

Thursday, June 30, 2005 was announced in the new WTC site rebuilding design concept. Rebuilding officials unveiled the third incarnation of the Freedom Tower Wednesday, showing off a building that they say pays respects to the former towers of the World Trade Center while addressing the safety and security concerns of a previous design.

Much of downtown's efforts to rebuild from the Sept. 11 attacks rides on the success of the Freedom Tower, which will serve as the centerpiece of Ground Zero and will again reclaim the title of the tallest building in New York City. Gov. George Pataki has staked his political reputation on the downtown rebuilding, and developer Larry Silverstein must bring back the 10 million square feet of office space to make good on his 99-year lease from the Port Authority.

Construction of the Freedom Tower is expected to begin in early 2006 and is slated to finish in 2009, Silverstein said. He did not provide a cost estimate on the building, but a previous design was expected to cost $1.5 billion.

A redesign of Freedom Tower was ordered in May after the New York Police Department's concerns over security became public.

Wednesday, Silverstein said the new design has addressed the police department's concerns. The design conforms to the standards used by U.S. embassies and has been reinforced with countless features designed to protect the occupants in the event of an emergency, he said.

In the new design, architect David Childs recast his vision for the 1,776-foot tall crystalline building into three distinct sections. The tower is topped off by a broadcast antenna that now sits squarely in the middle of - rather than off-center from - the roof. The spire was built into both the initial design Childs created and the first concept that master planner Daniel Libeskind envisioned.

The new Freedom Tower takes after the former Twin Towers in many ways: its base is 200 by 200 feet and its observation deck stands at 1,362 feet, while its railing rises to 1,368 feet -- the same two heights as each of the old Twin Towers.

"In a subtle but important way, this building recalls -- but in a new shape -- those buildings that were lost," Childs said at a news conference Wednesday.

In fact, a visitor to the memorial looking northward will see the resemblance of the lean figure of one of the towers, although from other angles, visitors will notice its octagonal center that tapers as it rises.

While it still remains to be seen whether critics and the public will like the new look, several experts said Wednesday that the new plan succeeds in a difficult task of balancing both safety and design.

"The building is essentially an office building and a good one," said Rick Bell, executive director of the American Institute of Architects' New York chapter.

"From several perspectives, it does what a tower should, which is reach for the sky," said Robert Ivy, editor in chief of Architectural Record. "The remaining question that needs to be continually asked is who's going to rent this space."

Silverstein said that given the five-year construction schedule, he expects it will be several years before tenants will sign leases.