The Twin Towers

 

Short history

Height: 1,368 and 1,362 feet (417 and 415 meters)
Owners: Port Authority of New York and New Jersey
Architect: Minoru Yamasaki, Emery Roth and Sons consulting
Engineer: John Skilling and Leslie Robertson of Worthington, Skilling, Helle and Jackson
Ground Breaking: August 5, 1966
Opened: 1970-73; April 4, 1973 ribbon cutting 
Destroyed: September 11, 2001

The official story of the destruction:

On that date [September 11, 2001], as is well known, 19 terrorists associated with an organization called al Qaeda hijacked four [Boeing 757 and 767] airplanes, and succeeded in crashing three of them into public buildings they had targeted — one into each of the two towers of the World Trade Center in New York, and one into the Pentagon near Washington, D.C. The World Trade Center towers were destroyed and the Pentagon was seriously damaged. Passengers on the fourth airplane sought to overpower the hijackers, and in so doing prevented that airplane from being similarly used, although it too crashed, in a field in Pennsylvania, and all aboard were killed. In all, more than 3,000 people were killed in that day’s coordinated attacks.

World Trade Center History

The twin towers of the World Trade Center were more than just buildings. They were proof of New York’s belief in itself. Built at a time when New York’s future seemed uncertain, the towers restored confidence and helped bring a halt to the decline of lower Manhattan. Brash, glitzy, and grand, they quickly became symbols of New York.

Rockefeller Brainchild

The World Trade Center was conceived in the early 1960s by the Downtown-Lower Manhattan Development Association to revitalize the seedy “Radio Row,” dominated by electronic stores. Chase Manhattan Bank chairman David Rockefeller, founder of the development association, and his brother, New York governor Nelson Rockefeller, pushed hard for the project, insisting it would benefit the entire city.

In 1962, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey began plans to build the center. Minoru Yamasaki and Associates of Michigan was hired as architect. Eventually, Yamasaki decided on two huge towers. Critics charged that a modern monolith would rob New York of character, ruin the skyline, disrupt television reception, and strain city services. However, the project was approved and construction began in 1966.

In order to create the 16-acre World Trade Center site, five streets were closed off and 164 buildings were demolished. Construction required the excavation of more than 1.2 million cubic yards of earth, which was used to create 23.5 acres of land along the Hudson River, now part of Battery Park City in lower Manhattan. During peak construction periods, 3,500 people worked at the site. A total of 10,000 people worked on the towers; 60 died during its construction.

Instant Landmarks

The north tower was opened in Dec. 1970 and the south tower in Jan. 1972; they were dedicated in April 1973. They were the world’s tallest buildings for only a short time, since the Sears Tower in Chicago was completed in May 1973. However, the towers were ranked as the fifth and sixth tallest buildings in the world at the time of their destruction on Sept. 11, 2001.

Four smaller buildings and a hotel, all built nearby around a central landscaped plaza, completed the complex. The mall at the World Trade Center, which was located immediately below the plaza, was the largest shopping mall in lower Manhattan. The six basements housed two subway stations and a stop on the PATH trains to New Jersey.

Some 50,000 people worked in the buildings, while another 200,000 visited or passed through each day. The complex had its own zip code, 10048.

Previous Bombing

In 1993 terrorists drove a truck packed with 1,100 lbs of explosives into the basement parking garage at the World Trade Center. Despite the size of the blast—it left a crater 22 ft wide and 5 stories deep—only 6 people were killed and 1,000 injured. The towers were repaired, cleaned, and reopened in less than a month.

Rebuilding Plans

In 2002, separate design contests were held for rebuilding the World Trade Center site and creating a memorial for the victims of the attacks. The first round of finalists for the site, unveiled in July 2002, were widely criticized as being too boring and having too much of an emphasis on office space, leading to a new round of finalists in December.

In Feb. 2003, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, which was established by Governor Pataki to coordinate the various agencies and advisory committees involved in the rebuilding efforts, chose architect Daniel Libeskind’s design for rebuilding the 16-acre site of the former World Trade Center. The design included a hanging garden, a memorial, a cultural center, and Freedom Tower, which would be a symbolic 1,776 feet tall from the ground to the top of its spire.

In July 2003, David Childs was brought in as the new lead architect of Freedom Tower, although Libeskind remained in charge of designing the site in general. The two had different visions for the tower; a design combining the approaches of both architects was unveiled in Dec. 2003. It would include wind turbines in its spire, designed to generate as much as 20% of the building’s power.

On July 4, 2004, New York governor Pataki, New Jersey governor McGreevey, and New York City mayor Bloomberg laid the cornerstone for the Freedom Tower. The skyscraper, estimated to cost $1.5 billion, was expected to be ready for its first occupants by late 2008, while construction on the site in general is expected to last through 2015.

Just as construction was beginning, security concerns were raised, leading to a complete redesign of the tower. The new plans were released on June 29, 2005. The tower is to be moved further back from the street—and will have a cubic base the same size as each of the Twin Towers. The wind turbines have been eliminated. The design recalls that of the old buildings, while adding its own twists: starting with the square base, the tower’s design moves into 8 isosceles triangles, creating an octagon at its center. An observation deck will sit at the 105th story, crowned by a parapet at exactly the height of the original Towers. An illuminated spire enclosing a television antenna will rise to the final height of 1776 ft.

Now called 1 World Trade, the former Freedom Tower will include 2.6 million square foot of office space, tenant amenities, restaurants, underground retail spaces, and access to transportation. 1 World Trade is scheduled to open in late 2013.

Michael Arad and Peter Walker's winning design 'Reflecting Absence'Michael Arad and Peter Walker’s winning design Reflecting Absence

Design for World Trade Center Memorial Selected

The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation announced in Jan. 2004 that architects Michael Arad and Peter Walker had won a competition to design the memorial to the people who died at the World Trade Center. There had been more than 5,000 entries in the competition.

The memorial, Reflecting Absence, would honor those who died at the World Trade Center in terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, and Feb. 26, 1993.

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