One World Trade Center climbs to become crown of New York skyline
The news that construction is beginning on the hundredth floor of a building that will eventually rise to 104 would not ordinarily be much of a story.
But on Monday, weather permitting, the skyscraper that has been rising from the site of the September 11 attacks will reach a small but hugely symbolic milestone as that new floor edges it past the Empire State building to become the tallest structure in New York.
More than a decade after the attacks, and eight years since work began on the project, One World Trade Center will reach 1,271ft on Monday. That may be just 21 feet taller than its illustrious ancestor in midtown (minus the antenna), but it means that once again a tower in lower Manhattan will crown the New York skyline. The achievement will be commemorated with a ceremony on Monday afternoon.
And for the city's residents, it is hard to overstate the significance of that. "I think it's most significant project in the world," said Vince MacDermot, a subway worker who was one of the many New Yorkers who dug through the rubble of Ground Zero searching in vain for survivors on the day after the attacks. "Three-thousand souls went up to heaven and, you know, we rebuilt it."
The building – formerly dubbed Freedom Tower – will eventually reach 1,368 feet, the same as the first World Trade Center towers. Then an antenna will be placed on top, taking it to 1,776 feet and making it the tallest building, not just in US, but in the western hemisphere, as well as the third tallest in the world.
According to Patrick Foye, executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, who spoke at the authority's commissioners meeting last week, construction of the building is on track and is slated for completion in the fourth quarter of 2013 or the first quarter of 2014.
David M Childs, the architect who designed One World Trade Center – now a consulting partner with Skidmore, Owings & Merrill – noted that typically buildings are celebrated upon completion, but this occasion is unique.
"It sort of caught us off guard," Childs told the Guardian. "For us, we usually think about topping out of a building, rather than something in the intermediate, which of course this is, but it's significant because it relates to the Empire State building."
Childs acknowledged there is an added significance to the construction of a building at the site of the September 11 attacks, "I think it sort of symbolizes, on the skyline, our resilience as a country. That we weren't down and out. Everybody who thought that it would just be an empty site forever was not right."
"It's in our DNA to rebuild and we did and we've done it," Childs added. "We're now, again, the tallest in the city. Which I think is fitting."
The design of One World Trade Center was intended to recreate its predecessor on the New York City skyline, with "the exact same footprint as one of the missing buildings and the exact same height", Childs said.
But the project, the first of four office towers to be built at the site of Ground Zero, has not been uncontroversial. Construction began on 18 October 2004, and has suffered cost overruns and delays ever since. In 2008, the redevelopment effort was expected to cost $11bn. A report from Navigant Consulting and Rothschild estimates that figure has now risen to $14.8bn.
But Vince MacDermot admires the ambitious nature of the rebuilding effort. "It's a lot of work to do it and it's a very sophisticated project. A lot of it's underground. That's why it's taking so long," he explained.
Although the new tower will be a rival for its business, the 82-year-old Empire State building has been gracious in its response.
"The world's most famous office building, the ancestor of all super-tall towers, welcomes our newer, taller cousin to the skyline," the building's operators said in a statement. "We've watched you grow, and now we salute you." SOURCE