Gov. George E. Pataki and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg unveiled a radical redesign of the Freedom Tower planned in Lower Manhattan yesterday: a 77-story glass-clad skyscraper that would sit atop an almost impermeable 200-foot concrete and steel pedestal, sheathed in ornamental metalwork, overlooking the memorial intended to honor those who died at the World Trade Center.
The redesign was worked up in a matter of weeks after an embarrassing setback for the trade center redevelopment, when the New York Police Department deemed the first version of the Freedom Tower too vulnerable to attack by car or truck bomb.
The newly configured building would have no occupied space other than the lobby for its first 200 feet. It would be set at least 40 feet farther away from West Street-Route 9A, a heavily trafficked state highway. Many of its windows would be tempered, laminated and multilayered for extra protection against explosions.
Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said in a statement released after the unveiling that the "new design provides for a level of bomb blast mitigation consistent with the N.Y.P.D.'s report on the Freedom Tower and adequate to the threat" described in federal safety guidelines.
Though it is by the same architect, David M. Childs of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, the Freedom Tower shown yesterday is a far cry from the version that captured worldwide attention when it was unveiled in 2003 and became the new image of ground zero. Gone are the torqued form and asymmetrical spire recalling the Statue of Liberty, the parallelogram floor plan and the open-air superstructure laced by cables and filled with energy-producing turbines.
In their place is a structure whose scale, proportions and details - a central antenna, cut-away corners and pinstripe facade - evoke the twin towers that were lost on Sept. 11, 2001. The roof of the Freedom Tower would match 2 World Trade Center in height (1,362 feet) and its rooftop parapet would match No. 1 (1,368 feet). The antenna would bring it to 1,776 feet.
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Making their announcement in an elegant Wall Street catering hall, government officials and the developer, Larry A. Silverstein, declared that a better building had emerged, still laden with stirring symbolism but now far more secure from attack.
"I think it will be very safe," Governor Pataki said. Indeed, he said, if one of his children were hired by a Freedom Tower tenant, he would "be confident in their safety."
However, the building will not be completed until 2010, a year or two later than first planned. The history of large-scale development in New York suggests that the road ahead for the Freedom Tower will be tortuous, particularly at a site where so many competing interests and emotions reign. Further modifications are almost inevitable. Even now, it is not clear how much the redesign will add to the estimated $1.5 billion budget nor who would pay for the security enhancements.
Though Mr. Silverstein reported "some fascinating discussions with respect to very large block users," no prospective tenants have been publicly identified, except for the governor's office.
(Asked in a New York Times poll this month whether they would be willing to work in one of the higher floors of a new building at the trade center site, 52 percent of the city residents surveyed said they would not and 43 percent said they would. That is less resistance than was shown in an August 2003 poll, which found 62 percent unwilling to do so and 31 percent willing.)
About the revised Freedom Tower, Kenneth J. Ringler, the executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the trade center site, said, "There is no question that it is a more secure building." And Mr. Silverstein said the recent safety recommendations made by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, in response to the collapse of the original trade center towers, "have been embraced very significantly" in the redesign.
Elevators, sprinkler systems and electrical conduits in the new structure will all be protected in a central core of especially dense concrete, further strengthened by tons of steel reinforcing bars. And an extra stairway will be provided for rescue workers to enter the building even while tenants are escaping.
The original setback from West Street-Route 9A was 25 feet, which the police said was inadequate to protect the building from a large truck bomb. The new tower has been moved 65 feet back from West Street at its Fulton Street side, and 125 feet from the highway at Vesey Street.
Among the elements lost in the redesign is the asymmetrical spire. This was envisioned by Daniel Libeskind, the master planner of the trade center site, as an evocation of the upraised arm of the Statue of Liberty. However, Mr. Libeskind said yesterday that he discerned Liberty's torch in the sculptural enclosure planned for the antenna.
"The tower we have now is even better than the tower we had before," he said, congratulating Mr. Childs, with whom he famously quarreled two years ago over the first Freedom Tower design. "It asserts what the site is all about. The tower relates to the memorial, and rises in a symbolic way."
At its base, the Freedom Tower would be 200 feet square, like the twin towers and the two voids that are to be created in their place as part of the memorial. Michael Arad, one of the architects of the memorial, said the revised tower was "a quieter and simpler form" that "doesn't compete with the memorial."
Like 7 World Trade Center, under construction across Vesey Street, the Freedom Tower would essentially be two buildings in one: a utility-filled concrete pedestal topped by an office tower with a glass curtain wall.
The first 30 feet of the 200-foot-tall pedestal would be completely solid. The next 50 feet would have some openings, allowing light to be brought into the lobby from above. The rest of the base would be occupied by four floors of mechanical equipment. Stainless steel, titanium or aluminum panels would mask the concrete wall.
Office tenants would enter the building from the north or south, through lobbies on Fulton and Vesey Streets. Visitors headed to the indoor and outdoor observation decks would arrive across a plaza on the west side of the building. Diners going to the restaurants, directly under the observatories, would approach from a plaza on the east.
The main shaft of the Freedom Tower would begin as a square. As it rises, the corners would be cut away, creating an octagonal floor plan through the middle of the building. ("And eight corner offices," Mr. Childs noted.) Toward the top, the plan would assume a square shape again.
Depending on the viewer's perspective, the structure might appear rectangular or sloped like an obelisk. Each of the eight surfaces in its main facade would be an elongated isosceles triangle that would catch and reflect the light from a different angle.
The only externally visible separation between the windows would be vertical stainless-steel elements known as mullions, creating a pinstripe effect.
Mr. Childs said the redesign was intended to preserve as much as possible of the foundation design that had already consumed a year and a half of work. This includes threading the tower's underground columns among the looping outbound tracks of the World Trade Center PATH station.
Given those requirements, and the goal of maintaining the building's overall 2.6 million square-foot floor area, the redesigned Freedom Tower almost naturally assumed some dimensions of the twin towers, he said. "The building is simpler, architecturally," Mr. Childs said of the revised design. "It is unique, yet it subtly recalls, in the sky, the tragedy that has happened here."
Mr. Childs emphasized that the 408-foot spire and its setting had yet to be fully designed. He said he saw the building summit as "a functional piece of sculpture, a piece of civic art of an unusual scale."
The architects are working on a distinctive silver or white structural wrap for the spire that would enclose the television antenna with fiberglass or carbon, substances that would not interfere with emanating radio waves.
The spire is to be braced with guy wires - also woven from fiberglass or carbon - that would be anchored to a circular crown atop the observatory. The entire structure will be lit from within and programmed with shifting patterns of lights, or even a single heavenward beam.
"I hope," Mr. Childs said, "this can answer those who were worried that this would be a foreboding building."
Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company