Design: “Freedom Tower” – The skyscraper symbolizing the resilience of New York
The Freedom Tower (1 WTC) in Manhattan or One World Trade Center is the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere and the third tallest building in the world.
IIt is the skyscraper that replaced the Twin Towers in the New York skyline.
Inaugurated in 2014, One World Trade Center has become a symbol of resilience after the horror of September 11.
Commonly known as the “Freedom Tower”, it is the tallest building in the United States at 1776 feet (541 meters) and an emblem of the American economic capital.
From its conception, the tower must have testified to the durability of New York – turned towards the future despite the tragedy – according to one of its architects, Kenneth Lewis.
As heartbreaking as the images of the Twin Towers collapsing to the ground on September 11, 2001, no one questioned their replacement with another skyscraper, located right next to “Ground Zero”.
For the architects of SOM, which builds skyscrapers around the world, it was an opportunity to realize concepts they had been thinking about for years.
“We thought it was the turn of the millennium, we thought it had to be the next generation of buildings, both in terms of safety and environmental impact,” Lewis recalled.
Among the most nightmarish images of September 11 are those of people leaping to their deaths from the towers to escape the blaze.
The architects came up with ideas on how to evacuate people other than by the stairs. The inventors returned with a giant chute and zipline, with a parachutist demonstrating the latter, Lewis recalls.
“It was the scariest thing,” he says. “We just couldn’t imagine anyone who could be a little overweight or a little scared to jump out a window.”
In the end, the only solution was to protect the core of the building with reinforced concrete, “wide enough for people to get out”, he explained.
The architects implemented safety standards on One WTC that have since become the standard for skyscrapers.
They include wide stairwells to allow a quick evacuation of the 104-story tower, a traffic light to alert planes, fire-resistant cameras and communication tools on each floor to allow rescuers to constantly monitor. the situation.
“We had a goal, which was an evacuation hour in total to evacuate the whole building,” Lewis said.
Firefighters have been invited to planning meetings. They were the ones who suggested a back-up system that could compensate for the failure of the back-up generators on September 11 to provide electricity long enough to evacuate the building.
“They had been through such trauma, they had to be part of the solutions that we found,” Lewis said.
The fire was not the only concern: in the fall of 2001, several anonymous letters containing anthrax were sent to media and politicians, killing five people.
“We started to think about the filtering system and the air quality,” said Lewis.
“Think about the worst case scenario and what that would mean, then brace yourself,” he added, explaining their methodology.
Moment of transformation
Nearly 20 years later, the pandemic has left One WTC and most of Manhattan’s prestigious towers empty for months.
“People thought we were going to come back a lot quicker than we did,” admitted Lewis.
“We immediately looked at the types of filtration systems that are in these buildings, and most new buildings have high efficiency filters, particulate filters that also deal with viruses.”
But if the office towers have not yet regained their pre-pandemic occupancy rate, their preeminence in the New York skyline cannot be questioned.
A tower of some 600 apartments is under construction in Brooklyn and will become the first “super-skyscraper” outside of Manhattan when completed next year.
About twenty other skyscrapers are under construction across New York.
Besides the environment, the mental health of the occupants of these buildings is now also a priority, said Lewis.
“We are in 2021 and we are talking about well-being and integrating that into the spaces that we create, by creating outdoor spaces in which people can work, roof terraces that are really workspaces, spaces meeting.
“It truly is a moment of transformation,” he said.
In the meantime, One WTC is set to become as iconic as its predecessors.
While the 9/11 memorial symbolizes “the void” created by the attacks, the “Freedom Tower” represents “the positive”, according to Lewis.
“A place of innovation and new ideas and modern ideas of safety and security,” he said.
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