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World Trade Center Rising

The B1M | 7:34

World Trade Center Rising

Fred Mills

28 September 2016

Video Views

15 YEARS ON from 9/11, development work at New York’s World Trade Center is well advanced. We explore the story of the site since 2001 in this must-watch documentary.

Everyone remembers where they were on the morning of September 11 2001. The horror of that day will never be forgotten and its impact has powerfully shaped the world we now live in.

In the aftermath of the attacks, the former World Trade Center site in New York came to be called ground zero; a focal point for recovery efforts and people’s grief. In time, it also grew to become the focus of efforts to re-build; a desire to demonstrate the resolve of America and the free world, and to pay tribute to those who had lost their lives.


In November 2001, New York’s then Governor George Pataki established the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC) to oversee the rebuilding process. As early discussions got underway, recovery and clearance teams continued to work 24 hours a day to carefully unpick and remove debris from ground zero. Their work was completed in May 2002.

The site under discussion for the new development encompassed the original footprint of the World Trade Centre with a desire to reopen access through Greenwich Street, which had been blocked by that development when it was built in the 1970s.

Above: The new World Trade Center development site sits upon the footprint of the original complex. It re-opens the access through Greenwich Street that was blocked by the original 1970s scheme (Below). (Images courtesy of The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey [above] and Messer Woland  [below]).

At this point, with master-plan proposals being developed by Daniel Libeskind, the project entered several years of disagreement, debate and controversy. Arguments wore on about who owned the land and what would now be constructed there.

Many people wanted the Twin Towers to be rebuilt in a stronger and taller form. Others didn’t want anything built there at all and felt ground zero should become a memorial.

Above: Some of Daniel Libeskind's early concept sketches for the site master-plan (image courtesy of Studio Daniel Libeskind [SDL]).

During this period, the new 7 World Trade Center – designed by David Childs of Skidmore, Owings and Merrell – was constructed on the site of its original structure. It sits adjacent to, but separate from the main World Trade Center complex, meaning that it only needed approval from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. This enabled works to progress without delay and the building completed in 2006; the first new structure at ground zero.

"Many people wanted the Twin Towers to be rebuilt. Others didn’t want anything built there at all"

Eventually, agreement was reached on the main complex. Rights were granted to create a memorial on the footprints of the original Twin Towers in exchange for surrounding that memorial with several new skyscrapers. This deal between the major parties became known as “The Swap” and is now recognised as the most complex real estate transaction in human history.


With stakeholder differences for the most part resolved, work began on the various aspects of the new World Trade Center complex.

The most recognisable new structure is the vast One World Trade Center, a 104-storey tower that rises to a symbolic height of 1776 feet; the year of American Independence. Creating the tallest building in the United States, and the Western Hemisphere for that matter, posed significant engineering challenges.

Above: One World Trade Center is the most recognisable new structure at ground zero (image courtesy of Iwan Baan).

Construction began in 2006, with excavation works down to New York’s bedrock and the use of explosives to clear some of this material away. From there, concrete foundations were constructed and the first column, was lifted into place.

Above: Excavation work for One World Trade Center's foundations extended down to Manhattan Island's bedrock (image courtesy of Silverstein Properties).

With foundations constructed, the building’s central concrete core was formed using a climbing rig that rose with the core as it hardened. The steel frame structure followed, with the glazing coming up after that.


As the building rose, working at height became a significant challenge. The developing levels were cocooned in a mesh frame to prevent tools or debris falling. This moved with the building as it grew, until the glazing was installed. Workers slept in temporary accommodation on the tower’s levels to save the time spent travelling back down to ground level each day.

Above: The tower's upper-most levels were cocooned in a mesh frame (seen in blue) that climbed the building as it grew and as glazing was installed (image courtesy of Lucas Jackson / Reuters).

The weather also caused problems. Steelwork and major building elements could not be lifted up the building if the wind exceeded certain speeds or on days with poor visibility.

The tower was completed in 2014 with the installation of its antenna.

Across the complex, 4 World Trade Centre was completed in 2013. Rising to a height of 72 storeys, this simple but impressive structure provides modern office space with views across Manhattan and the greater New York City area.

Above: Those in the offices at 4 World Trade Center can enjoy impressive views across Manhattan (image courtesy of Silverstein Properties).

As it stands, further developments are planned for 2, 3 and 5 World Trade Centre subject to tenancy agreements, funding and approvals. The grandest of these structures is likely to be 2 World Trade Center, the second tallest building on the complex.

Above: The proposed development at 2 World Trade Center. Potential tenants include News Corp and 21st Century Fox (image courtesy of BIG).

Closer to ground, the World Trade Center Transportation Hub opened in 2016. Sitting within the uniquely formed Oculus structure – designed by Santiago Calatrava to resemble a bird – the hub is a major piece of transportation infrastructure for the city and has made an impressive architectural contribution to Manhattan.

Above: Santiago Calatrava's Oculus at the World Trade Center Transportation Hub is intended to resemble a bird (image courtesy of Santiago Calatrava).

Above: The breath-taking interior of the new World Trade Center Transportation Hub (image courtesy of Silverstein Properties).

Rightly at the very core of the re-development sits the National September 11 Memorial, consisting of two monuments positioned on the footprints of the original twin towers.

The design is entitled “Reflecting Absence” and is formed by waterfalls that run into two pools. These symbolise the loss of life and the physical voids left by the attacks. The sound of falling water mutes the noise of the surrounding city creating a calm space for reflection.

Above: Two pools on the footprints of the original twin tower buildings form part of the National September 11 Memorial (image courtesy of Joe Woolhead).

The memorial is supported by a powerful subterranean museum that documents the 9/11 attacks. Exhibits include artefacts, images and oral tributes from the relatives of those who died.

"Falling water mutes the noise of the surrounding city creating a calm space for reflection"

In the years since 9/11 as ground zero has developed into the new World Trade Center complex, it has continuously been a focal point for tributes and memorials. Anniversaries of the attacks have been marked here each year and crowds gathered when news broke of Osama Bin Laden’s death in 2011.

Above: The site has continually been a focal point for tributes and memorials (image courtesy of Silverstein Properties).

What happened in this space will never be forgotten and will continue to shape our lives for decades to come. In our opinion the re-building efforts successfully balance the need to bounce back and move forward, with marking one of the most horrific moments in history.

It is perhaps best to finish with the words that President Obama wrote across a steel beam installed at One World Trade Center: “We Remember, We Rebuild, We Come Back Stronger.”

Above: President Obama's hand-written words on a One World Trade Center beam (image courtesy of Shannon Stapleton / Reuters).

You can learn more about the new World Trade Center development here.

Images courtesy of AFP Getty Images, BIG, DBOX, Fletcher6, Fred R Conrad, George Steinmetz, Hufton + Crow, Iwan Baan, James Ewing, Jim Henderson, Joe Woolhead, Lucas Jackson, Messer Woland, The New York Times, Paul J Richards, Port Authority of New York + New Jersey, Reuters, Santiago Calatrava, SDL, Shannon Stapleton Silverstein Properties, Thomas E Franklin and Timothy A Clary.

Time-lapse footage courtesy of EarthCam. See the incredible full video here.

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