Freedom Tower redesigned
Vows to rebuild on the site of the World Trade Center towers were made soon after the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001. Most designs given serious consideration during the subsequent competition featured one or more glass-clad skyscrapers, as did the winning design by Skidmore, Owing and Merrill of New York City, designated Freedom Tower.
More recently, however, the design of Freedom Tower has been revisited to meet concerns of security from the New York City police. They were concerned that the original 25-foot setback from West Street was inadequate to protect the building from a large truck bomb.
The redesign features a deeper setback between the building and the adjacent streets and a fortress-like base. The first 30 feet of the 200-foot high pedestal for the building will be constructed of solid concrete clad in metal armor. There will be small openings in the next 50 feet to allow for some daylighting of the 80-foot lobby. Above the lobby will be four stories of mechanical equipment that will, again, be completely enclosed in solid concrete.
Although the concern with security can be understood, it is questionable how beneficial the new design elements would be in the case of an actual terrorist attack. Certainly if the site were attacked again from the air, the 200-foot-high fortress at the base would not contribute significantly to the safety of the occupants. In fact, the lack of daylighting in the lower levels could deter egress from the building, particularly once power is lost. At the same time, placing the mechanical equipment only 80 feet above ground level might make it readily accessible to persons who wish to introduce biologically harmful elements into the buildings’ ventilation system. Moreover, since Sept.11, 2001, more advanced blast-resistant glazing systems have been developed. It is quite possible that systems that would adequately contain the glass from a large truck bomb at ground level are currently available and could be used in the building meant to symbolize our countries’ refusal to be intimidated by terrorists.
I don’t want to see the redesign of Freedom Tower as a trend spreading across the country. We can do better.