It took nearly two years after September 11, 2001, for the concept of the Freedom Tower to win approval. A German architect, Daniel Libeskind, was selected in 2003 by the LMDC to design the building. Libeskind's original plan was to build the memorial to the victims of September 11 first, complete the Church Street buildings next, and construct the Freedom Tower last. This plan was revised by Governor Pataki, who insisted that the Freedom Tower should be built first. In the meantime, a feud developed between the lead architect, Libeskind, and the developer's choice of architect, David Childs.
The original design was for a futuristic building that would reflect the city's self- confidence and that could withstand any type of terrorist attack. It was designed as a twisting obelisk of steel and glass rising to 1,776 feet. There would be about 2.6 million square feet of office space in the lower 69 stories, but the building would be 102 stories tall overall. The bottom half of the building would contain offices, while the top half would comprise a broadcast tower with restaurants at the top. Part of the top half would have an open space for wind turbines that could fulfill 20 percent of the building's energy needs. The original site of the building was to be within 25 feet from the West Street/Route 9A. The cost of the building had been estimated in the $2 billion range.
In the spring of 2005, the NYPD criticized the building's location and insisted that it would present serious security concerns. The NYPD feared that a large truck bomb attack would seriously damage the tower. After all, it had happened in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. After some negotiations, Governor Pataki announced in May 2005 that the building would be moved farther from West Street, and that the tower's exterior would be strengthened to withstand a truck bombing. These requirements meant that the Freedom Tower would have to be redesigned almost from scratch. In this new design, there would be a 20-story fortified wall around the base of the tower. These modifications brought the estimated cost of the Freedom Tower into the $3 billion range.
The Twin Towers had structural problems that contributed to their collapse, so the Freedom Tower would also have to meet higher structural standards. Elevators and stairwells are to be protected by walls of concrete and steel two feet thick. There will be wider exit stairs, improved emergency systems, and better fireproofing. The ultimate assessment of the building, however, will be conducted by structural engineers, who must give their approval that the proposed design of the building is structurally sound. This creates a further problem in that, as Guy Nordenson, a structural engineer and a professor of architecture at Princeton University, points out, "the computer software that is being used to simulate the blast effects is proprietary and classified by the federal government." This means that the structural engineers only have access to the data produced by the government's software without being able to judge the reliability of the tests.
Once the security and structural problems posed by the design of the Freedom Tower had been resolved, construction began on April 27, 2006. The next obstacle, however, was finding potential tenants for the building. A residue of fear had built up over working at a place where so many had died so recently. Moreover, the building would serve as a prime target for future terrorist activity. To encourage the private sector to move into the building, the governors of New York and New Jersey and the mayor of New York City committed state and federal agencies to occupy 1 million of the 2.6 million square feet in the tower. Despite this decision, there has been widespread resistance by the employees of these governmental agencies to the idea of working in the tower. A secondary issue is the escalating cost of construction, which means that leasing space in the tower might eventually be too expensive for most businesses and corporations.
On March 30, 2009, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey announced that the building would henceforth be referred to as One World Trade Center rather than the Freedom Tower. The agency pointed out that One World Trade Center had always been the building's legal name and that it was "the one that's easiest for people to identify with." The Port Authority argued that the new name would make the building more marketable to potential tenants. The name change, however, generated some backlash, particularly from Pataki, who had given the Freedom Tower its name in an April 2003 speech.
Wrangling over terms between the state and local governments and the developer, and the constant changing of agendas by the various players has slowed down the pace of construction. It was originally envisaged that the tower would be operational sometime in 2009, but it now seems likely that the building will be completely finished sometime in 2013.
Stephen E. Atkins
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