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Freedom Tower

The design for the Freedom Tower, the 1,776 foot tower that some claim will be the tallest building in the world, was released to the public at Federal Hall on December 19, 2003.

The building was originally a concept of Daniel Libeskind, the architect who designed the site plan for Ground Zero. The tower itself was a major selling point of the plan, and earned Libeskind the weighty endorsement of Governor George Pataki. Larry Silverstein, the developer who owns the rights to build at Ground Zero, was not as impressed, complaining that the site did not call for enough office space. Silverstein brought in David Childs of Skidmore Owings and Merrill to adapt the Freedom Tower concept to his needs.

What followed was a fiery collaboration between Childs, who was named the building's lead architect, and Libeskind, who was assigned the role of collaborating architect. It was not clear exactly what role either man held, though, and the struggle between the two became so bitter that as of last week they were reportedly not even on speaking terms.

There was at least the appearance of a hatchet burying at Federal Hall, with Childs praising Libeskind's plan and being careful to describe his tower as an adaptation that tried to stay true to his collaborator's original vision. Libeskind skirted the issue of Childs' changes altogether, speaking mainly of the building's relationship to the Statue of Liberty. The collaboration, he conceded, was difficult, saying that "is not just a couple of meetings. It's a struggle to make something great."


The Freedom Tower incorporates the ideas of Libeskind, retaining Libeskind's original, symbolic height of 1,776 feet, as well as the asymmetrical form topped by an off-center spire that is intended to mirror the Statue of Liberty's torch-holding arm.

To this, Childs added another symbolic tip of the hat to a New York City landmark -- cables intended to resemble those of the Brooklyn Bridge encircle a 400 foot-tall area above the occupied portion of the building. Inside of this area are windmills that generate 20 percent of the building's power. The turbines are probably the most ambitious part of the building architecturally -- such a space has not been constructed in a high-rise office building before. They are also one of the places where Childs ventures farthest from the Libeskind vision; while Libeskind's original idea did envision a space at this height that was not occupied by conventional office space, it did not seem to call for anything as massive as Childs' proposal. This added bulk was reportedly one of the things that caused the most contention between the two architects.

Besides the addition of this unoccupied portion of the building -- which was put in at least in part because of the anticipation that fear will keep demand low for space on high floors -- Childs' main alteration was to twist the tower. The tapered building turns as it moves upwards. Childs claims that this will both shield the rest of the site from wind at ground level and allow the windmills to capture the maximum amount of energy sixty stories above the ground.

At sixty stories and 1,100 feet, the occupied portion of the Freedom Tower will be more than 250 feet shorter than the Twin Towers. The next 400 feet will be Childs' lattice and windmills area, and on top of that a 276-foot spire will reach 1,776 feet. Antennas will extend to about 2,000 feet. Even if the building does not remain the world's tallest, said Libeskind, "this height will never be surpassed," because it represents the Declaration of Independence.

Underground, the building will contain a shopping area and connections to the transit station being designed by Santiago Calatrava. The ground level will have lobbies to serve both the office areas and those visiting the public observation areas located at the base of the open area and the base of the spire. The famous restaurant Windows of the World, which was located in the World Trade center, said Childs, would be located on the top floor, "perhaps with windows in the ceiling that look up into the weaving cables above."

The building is slated to be completed by 2008 or 2009. Silverstein has promised the governor that the cornerstone will be laid by September 11, 2004, three years after the twin towers collapsed.

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