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Monday 06 Sep 2010

Nine years after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, what progress has been made at the World Trade Center site?

As the ninth anniversary of 9/11 beckons, the world is once again immersed in the memory of those who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks of 2001. Since that fateful day we’ve published many articles and comment pieces examining the events of 9/11, including personalised opinion pieces such as the compelling critique from Richard Gage, AIA, Gregg Roberts and David Chandler entitled ‘Conspiracy theory or hidden truth? The 9/11 enigmas...’ which explored the idea that ‘the WTC high-rises were destroyed by explosives’ and inspired almost 200 comments from WAN users.

This year, we’re taking a good look at the progress made at the World Trade Center site – an elaborate project that seeks to use architecture to immortalise the raw emotions of by those affected by the terrorist attacks nine years ago.

The project has seen its fair share of ups and downs over the years, as fights broke out between two key developers Silverstein Properties and Port Authority and suggestions that one or more of the proposed towers would be discarded and two of the remaining structures reduced to stumps; however on 26th August 2010 the Port Authority Board of Commissioners authorised a series of agreements collectively known as the ‘Development Plan’ which will allow the full restoration of the complete World Trade Center site. After months of tense negotiations between Silverstein Properties (leaseholder of WTC Towers 2, 3 and 4) and the Port Authority (the site’s owner) over how exactly to phase and finance the three planned office towers on the eastern half of the site, it seems a calm has descended over proceedings.

2 World Trade Center – designed by Lord Norman Foster incorporating Daniel Libeskind’s controversial ‘Wedge of Light’ and developed by WSP – is a staggering crystalline structure soaring to 1,270ft and topped with an 80ft antenna. Easily as identifiable as the Empire State Building and almost as tall as the much-contested 15 Penn Plaza, the Development Plan enables the ‘immediate construction of Tower 2 to street level with the flexibility to start construction of the office tower based solely on market demand and no public support’.

Additional office space will be afforded by Lord Richard Rogers and WSP’s 3 World Trade Center, which will occupy a central position at the World Trade Center site. Offering 2.1million sq ft of office space and five trading floors, the design of 3WTC is arguably less arresting than Norman Foster’s glittering structure; yet it too has been given the green light for immediate construction, ‘initially to podium level funded entirely by insurance proceeds and, should SPI meet certain private market triggers, continued tower construction to completion in 2015’.

Over the past year, One World Trade Center (or the Freedom Tower as it has been affectionately termed) by David Childs of SOM has reached the 36th floor and is on track for completion in 2013. The 9/11 Memorial by architect Michael Arad and landscape architect Peter Walker has also taken a giant leap forward, as all the steel used in the build has now been fully installed, with the two reflective pools fully formed on the Memorial Plaza and lined with granite tiles, on schedule to open on the 10th anniversary of the attacks next year.

Santiago Calatrava’s signature WTC Transportation Hub is on target for completion, with all characteristic arches installed at the Hub Connector and installation of additional arches and plate girders on the mezzanine level now fully underway. Despite fears that the mass of office space at the World Trade Center site would remain unoccupied, The Port Authority recently signed a Letter of Intent with publishing giant Condé Nast for approximately 1million sq ft of office space in the Freedom Tower.

On the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, a protest march is scheduled against plans for an Islamic cultural centre just a few blocks from the World Trade Center site. Widely referred to as the ‘Ground Zero Mosque’, the concept has sparked outrage amongst New Yorkers and 9/11 activists who feel that the building would be completely out of time and place in such close situation with the sensitive site. The project was given the full go-ahead by the New York Landmarks Preservation Commission several weeks ago.

Rebuilding the World Trade Center site has taken some battering, from accusations that quality control service Testwell Laboratories falsified concrete mix design reports for the Freedom Tower to public concerns that the same building too closely resembled the Shanghai World Financial Center. Finally it seems that work is truly full steam ahead, and whilst the heart of New York may still look like a building site, within a year or two some stunning architectural feats are set to rise from the ashes.

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