Architectural Plans and Drawings for 2WTC

Two Plans, Two Architects, Two Years (2006 to 2015)

Freedom Tower Skyscraper standing alone with other skyscrapers at a distance
Skyscrapers 1, 3, and 4 in Lower Manhattan, November 2017.

Connor Tenney/Getty Images (cropped)

 

Which skyscraper will fill the space between One World Trade Center and Tower Three? After terrorists created a hole in the ground in 2001, rebuilding began in New York City. The skyline at the site in Lower Manhattan is supposed to include buildings with a gradual change in height, according to Daniel Libeskind's 2002 Master Plan. The second tallest tower, 2WTC, will be the last to be built, but what will it look like? Here's the story of the skyscraper with two designs.

Nobody told the public that the buildings at Ground Zero would not be rebuilt in order. Building 7 with all its housed infrastructure was the first to go up. Then 4WTC was finished before the supertall, triangulated 1WTC. Towers three and two are the last designs to be implemented. The developer may wait for some of a new building to be leased before vertical construction begins in earnest, but the architectural designs are done — or are they? For Two World Trade Center, also known as Tower 2 or 200 Greenwich Street, we have two designs — one from the British Sir Norman Foster and another from the Danish architect Bjarke Ingels. This is the story of two designers vying for the opportunity to rebuild after the 2001 terror strikes.

The 2006 Vision for Rebuilding Ground Zero

rendering of NYC skyline with new skyscrapers in Lower Manhattan
Proposed New World Trade Center Office Towers, 2006. RRP, Team Macarie via Getty Images (cropped)

The first design for Two World Trade Center had a slanted roof with four diamonds. Created by Foster and Partners, the 2006 renderings for 2WTC showed a futuristic 1,254 foot building with 78 stories.

According to architect Norman Foster, the diamond-shaped top of 2WTC was to be a landmark on the city's skyline. Foster said that the crystalline top of the tower "respects the master plan and bows down to the Memorial Park commemorating the tragic events that unfolded here. But it is also a powerful symbol of hope for the future."

A Meaningful Tower 2

Architect's Sketch -- top of tower is oriented so that it acknowledges the voids left by the absence of the twin towers
Foster's Concept Sketch for 2WTC. Foster and Partners, courtesy Silverstein Properties

Designed in 2006 by Norman Foster + Partners, Tower 2 was to be made up of four blocks around a cross-shaped core. The shape and location of the skyscraper assured that it would not cast a shadow on the 9/11 Memorial Plaza. Light-filled, flexible, column-free office floors would rise to the 59th floor, where the glass facade shears off at an angle to address the Memorial Park. Written on the sketch, Foster says "top of tower is oriented so that it acknowledges the voids left by the absence of the twin towers."

Foster's Tower 2 incorporates symbols of hope. Sketches clearly show the relationship that rooftop diamonds have to the memorial pools below — they are pointers, symbolically saying "Remember me."

Foster's Distinctive Diamond Top

Architect's Rendering -- four diamond top of skyscraper at Night
Norman Foster's Plan for the Top of 2 World Trade Center. Foster and Partners, courtesy of Silverstein Properties

The upper floor of Tower 2 has multiple-height function rooms with sweeping views of the Memorial, the river, and the city. The tall height of Tower 2 conveys important meanings. "The dramatic height of the tower celebrates the spirit that has historically driven Manhattan to build tall,"  Foster said in his architect's statement.

On all four sides notches divide Tower 2 into four interconnected blocks

In 2006, Foster described the design for 2WTC as revolving "around a central cruciform core."

"...the shaft is articulated as four interconnected blocks with flexible, column-free office floors that rise to level sixty-four, whereupon the building is cut at angle to address the Memorial below...."

Norman Foster had a vision for Tower 2, but developer Silverstein had no commitments from businesses who might lease the office building. An uncertain economy stalled construction at the foundation level and then at street levels. And then Foster's unique, diamond-roofed skyscraper design got the boot. In June 2015 new plans by a new architect were revealed:

The New Kid on the Block, Bjarke Ingels, 2015

Caucasian man standing with arms folded near boxy structure in front of a more tradition building with a cupola
Architect Bjarke Ingels at the Serpentine Pavilion in 2016. © Iwan Baan courtesy serpentinegalleries.org

Fast forward to April 2015. News organizations like The Wall Street Journal were reporting that Rupert Murdoch and his Fox media empire would take over space at Ground Zero.  With a lease commitment, developer Larry Silverstein could move ahead with rebuilding Lower Manhattan.

And then, in June 2015, plans and renderings were publicized by Silverstein. The Danish "starchitect" Bjarke Ingels, founding partner and creative director of the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), had developed a new Tower 2. The Ingels redesign was about 80 stories and about 1,340 feet.

Who was this Ingels? The world would see his boxy-like design stylings in the summer of 2016 when his firm was chosen to create the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion in London, a temporary architectural exhibition that for years has showcased the best and the brightest architects from around the world. Also in 2016, Bjarke Ingels' residential pyramid opened on West 57th Street in New York City. Called VIA 57 West, the boxy design is a modernity unfamiliar in the streets of New York.

Ingels' Vision for 2WTC, 2015

Architect's Sketch of stepped/tiered skyscraper between two more traditional designs
Rendering of 2015 Design for 2WTC by Bjarke Ingels Group. Press image © Silverstein Properties, Inc., all rights reserved (cropped)

The 2015 press release for the new 2WTC design claimed "The building is aligned along the axis of World Trade Center Master Planner Daniel Libeskind’s ‘Wedge of Light’ plaza to preserve the views to St. Paul’s Chapel from the Memorial park."

The design concept is that of seven boxes, each about 12 stories high, but with different lengths — stacked not as a pyramid, but as an early New York City art deco ziggurat skyscraper with a dramatic one-sided setback required by zoning regulations.

Terraces of Green, Looking Away

Architect's illustration looking toward the street from the top of a skyscraper
Rendering of Garden Terraces on Setbacks of 2WTC Proposed Design of Bjarke Ingels Group. Press image © Silverstein Properties, Inc., all rights reserved. (cropped)

The Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) had put green back into the World Trade Center site. The 2015 redesign of 2 WTC included green terrace areas integrated into the skyscraper, perhaps an homage to Libeskind's original plan for a Vertical World Garden. The BIG architects intended to meld a high functioning skyscraper facade facing Ground Zero and New York's financial district with terraced green spaces facing toward the rooftop gardens found in the nearby Tribeca neighborhood.

The stacking design creates 38,000 square feet (3,530 square meters) of outdoor space, with views of NYC that should be highly marketable office space. It was suggested that the floors with terraces could also be used as communal "amenity floors" for all office dwellers of the building.

Proposed Lobby for 2WTC, 2015

architect's sketch of multi-level open lobby
Rendering of 2015 Proposed 2 WTC Office Lobby by Bjarke Ingels Group. Press image © Silverstein Properties, Inc., all rights reserved

The position of 2WTC is ideal for the commuter — eleven subway lines and PATH trains meet under Santiago Calatrava's WTC Transportation Complex, right next door. Both Towers 2 and 3 will have grand views of the imposing bird-like structure that visually draws the casual passerby to Ground Zero.

The 2015 BIG design for 2WTC was drawn for developer Larry Silverstein to woo Rupert Murdoch's media empire. An open, terraced lobby was proposed to entice  Murdoch to lease multiple floors of the new office building.

Envisioning Something There, in Lower Manhattan

Architect's illustration of what a tiered skyscraper will look like in context with other buildings
Rendering Looking South at the Propsed Tiered 2WTC. Press image © Silverstein Properties, Inc., all rights reserved (cropped)

The 2015 design offered by the Bjarke Ingels Group for Tower 2 is stepped blocks, somewhat "two-faced," with the setbacks pointed away from Michael Arad's National 9/11 Memorial pools and the office spaces overlooking the Financial District.

Norman Foster's design put the building's focus inward, toward the Memorial. The new architect of the redesigned 2WTC was intent on bringing the feel of Tribeca to New York's Financial District. The stepped side allows views from the City into the group of skyscrapers that surround the 9/11 Memorial. The set-back also provides northern office views from 3WTC, a desirable look toward Midtown Manhattan.

The architects' visions are strikingly different — Foster's design is for a building that memorializes the events of 9/11; Ingels' design opens the views onto the City itself.

A Vision That Embraces the City

architect's rendering of how four skyscrapers would surround the 9/11 memorial park
BIG's Proposed Design of Towers 1, 2, 3, and 4. Press image © Silverstein Properties, Inc., all rights reserved (cropped)

The politics of architectural design is striking. The 2015 design came about because media mogul Rupert Murdoch showed interest in becoming a major tenant, which would get 2WTC off the ground. But why change architects? 

Some say that Murdoch did not want to be confused with newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst. In 2006, Norman Foster, the original Tower 2 architect, had completed a huge tower addition to the Hearst Building on 57th Street. There is no way that Murdoch wanted to be confused with the Hearst Empire — one architect per media mogul, please.

Then there was the story of when Norman Foster took over a building project that Bjarke Ingels had begun in Kazakhstan. Ingels was none too happy when Foster + Partners constructed a library on BIG’s foundation. The incident sounds revengefully close to Ingels building on Foster's foundation for Tower 2.

The new design for 2WTC made sense in a socio-economic way, even if it made little sense as a "better" design. The problem remains, however — Murdoch eventually pulled out of his agreement, which puts construction on hold again. 

What design will eventually win out? It may depend on the anchor tenant who decides to sign on.

Sources

  • Press Release, Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, September 7, 2006, http://www.renewnyc.com/displaynews.aspx?newsid=c96eb975-ecbc-4faf-94ec-250f0692a4e1 [accessed August 2, 2015]
  • Project Description, Foster + Partners, http://www.fosterandpartners.com/projects/tower-2-at-world-trade-center/ [accessed June 9, 2015]
  • "200 GREENWICH STREET / 2 WTC BUILDING FACTS" press release by Silverstein Properties, PDF at http://www.wtc.com/upload/media/press-kit/2WTC-Fact-Sheet.pdf [accessed June 9, 2015]
  • "High Rise" by Ian Parker, The New Yorker Magazine, September 10, 2012, http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2012/09/10/high-rise [accessed June 9, 2015]
  • "Revealed: The Inside Story of the Last WTC Tower's Design" by Andrew Rice, Wired, June 9, 2015, https://www.wired.com/2015/06/bjarke-ingels-design-two-world-trade-center/ [accessed June 9, 2015]
  • Additional Photo Credits: VIA 57 West, Uwe Kraft/Getty Images