Twisting Skyscraper to Replace NY's WTC

Dec 19, 12:21 PM (ET)

By Grant McCool
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A twisting, shimmering, glass-encased skyscraper topped by a spire evocative of the Statue of Liberty, will replace the destroyed World Trade Center towers, officials said on Friday after months of heated argument between architects over the design.

The building dubbed the "Freedom Tower" will be the world's tallest at 1,776 feet when it is completed by the end of 2008 and is intended to reclaim part of Manhattan's famous skyline shattered in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

"We will build it to show the world that freedom will always triumph over terror and that we will face the 21st century with confidence," said New York Gov. George Pataki, who has final authority over what is built on the 16-acre (6.4 hectare) site in lower Manhattan's financial district.

The tower will overtake Taipei 101 office block in Taiwan as the building regarded as the world's tallest. The Taipei building has not yet been completed but reached its maximum height of 1,667 feet in October.

New York's new tower will contain some similar elements to the original twin towers that stood at 1,368 feet, including the restoration of the well-known "Windows on the World" restaurant and an observation deck.

But the architects said it would be much safer and more environmentally sensitive.

The entire project, with a memorial to the 2,752 victims at its center, was estimated to cost up to $12 billion over the next decade, officials said. It also includes six other office buildings and a transportation hub to be designed by renowned Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava.

SIXTY OCCUPIED FLOORS

The plan and model of the building, unveiled at a public ceremony on Wall Street, calls for 60 occupied stories, including 2.6 million square feet of office space, rooftop restaurants, and the viewing floor up to a height of 1,100 feet.

The space above reaching to 1,500 feet will contain a lacy structure of tension cables similar to those on the Brooklyn Bridge and wind-harvesting turbines to provide 20 percent of the building's energy, the architects said.

A spire, symbolic of the Statue of Liberty's arm holding up a flaming torch, will rise a further 276 feet to 1,776 feet -- the height architect and site master planner Daniel Libeskind chose to represent the date of U.S. independence when he released his initial plan a year ago.

Libeskind described the spire at the top emitting a light into the sky at night, as one that would provide "a beacon of light and hope in a world that is often dark."

Best known for designing the Jewish Museum in Berlin, Libeskind collaborated with David Childs and his team at the New York firm of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. The pair feuded for months over the design of the site's signature tower but reached a compromise in time for this week's deadline.

The architects acknowledged the process had been difficult, even "a struggle," but they praised each other's work.

"This building is so tall, that like a tree, it wants to be tapered," Childs said in his presentation of the plan.

"By making that taper asymmetrical, it automatically gave a twist to the building ... and where the building is open, it catches the wind," Childs said.

He said the building would probably be the world's safest, with extra strong fireproofing, biological and chemical filters in the air-supply system and other emergency features.

The site rebuilding, one of the most ambitious in U.S. architectural history, has been overseen by the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. and driven in part by leaseholder Larry Silverstein's determination to rebuild.

"This will work and it will work well," said Silverstein, 72, who bought the World Trade Center lease from the Port Authority landowner just weeks before the hijacked plane strikes and is fighting a legal dispute with insurance companies over their payout for the attacks.