Tragedy’s Childhttps://indianexpress.com/article/news-archive/web/tragedys-child/

Tragedy’s Child

The new World Trade Centre complex in New York is a tribute to cutting-edge architecture.

The new World Trade Centre complex in New York is a tribute to cutting-edge architecture.

Tragedy makes for a cruel teacher. On a freezingly cold morning,it’s hard to miss the symbolism of the “survivor tree”. The tree was discovered in the rubble of the Twin Towers in October 2001 with snapped roots and a blackened trunk. It was nursed back to health and now stands 35 feet tall at the new site,widely accepted as a symbol of New York City’s fabled resilience. It also tells a story of the lessons learned and now incorporated into the rebuilding of the new World Trade Center (WTC) complex in Lower Manhattan.

The new complex,which includes 1World Trade Center,7World Trade Center,a museum,a memorial and a transportation hub,besides other commercial buildings,is being rebuilt using the most advanced safety systems. Nineteen agencies,two private developers,101 contractors,33 architects and 3000 workers have combined their efforts to make the complex safe,sustainable and artistically engaging. 1WTC,the first of the new towers to be rebuilt,stands on a fortress base 200 feet high,constructed from concrete designed to absorb and repel vehicular bomb attacks. The tower is an intricate column of steel and concrete,designed to resist lateral loads. When the planes hit the twin towers,the top floors imploded in a pancake effect.

The trend for new Manhattan office towers after the 9/11 tragedy has been to move away from all-steel structures toward composite systems. So,1WTC has an extra secure welding of columns and beams. The elevators,along with sprinklers and other safety systems,are encased within a concrete sheath. The stairwells,where many of the 9/11 victims perished,will be pressurised to keep smoke out and are 50 per cent wider than the earlier ones,allowing more people to exit at a time. There is also a separate responder stairwell for rescue crews with a dedicated water-and fire-proof elevator,enabling them to reach the upper floors faster. The new WTC will also be equipped with chemical filters in the air supply system in the event of a biological attack.

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Security measures at the new structure are equally stringent. Visitors will go through mandatory airport-style screening with metal detectors and X-ray machines. ID cards of everyone working in the towers will encase a proximity chip that will direct them to a designated elevator and allow access only to the floor they work on. The entire complex will be under continuous surveillance by 400 closed circuit cameras manned by 670 NYPD officers. The feeds will be monitored by video analytic software designed to flag suspicious people,activity and unattended baggage.

When the new complex was inaugurated on the 10th anniversary of the attacks last year,one of the first structures to be made public was the memorial for the victims — a tree-lined plaza with two giant pools marking the footprints of the original Twin Towers,bordered by bronze parapets displaying the names of victims. There is also a museum below ground level, where stories of survivors,responders and witnesses play out in a multi-media format. While 2,3 and 4WTC are under construction,5 WTC is yet to begin.

The cost of the colossal redevelopment is a staggering $11 billion and when the 16 acre complex opens in 2013,it will combine cutting-edge architecture with aesthetics to house six towers of commercial space,the museum,the memorial,a performing arts centre and a futuristic transportation hub. In contrast to the austere,monolithic structure of the original WTC,the existing 1WTC,almost complete,is a shimmering wall of glass,reflecting the many moods of the changing day. It will be America’s tallest building,with a tower that culminates in a glass parapet mounted by a 408-feet-tall antennae and a rotating beacon that will flash the letter N for New York in Morse code.

The ingenious use of glass ensures that 90 per cent of the building interiors get sunlight during daytime. Site architect Daniel Libeskind believes in “incorporating the vital past to build a compelling future”. So his wedge of light concept pans out on a triangular area that,on every 9/11,will be drenched in sunlight,unimpeded by shadows of surrounding buildings,between 8.46am,when the first plane struck one of the twin towers,and 10.28am,when the second tower collapsed.

After 9/11,businesses shifted across the Hudson River to Jersey City. At the heart of the new WTC complex,a massive transportation hub is being designed by renowned Spanish architect,sculptor and engineer Santiago Calatrava. The $3.4 billion transportation hub will serve 2,50,000 commuters,connecting the transit systems of New York and New Jersey and giving users easy access to the city’s financial district. Calatrava,famed for his flamboyant designs,has envisioned the hub as a dove in flight. Built 50 feet into the ground,the terminal will be topped by a dramatic roof (resembling massive wings). It includes an intricate webbing of steel and glass supported by curved white beams that suggest the rib cage of a gigantic bird. It will open to the public in 2014.

The WTC complex will be visited by an estimated 3 million people annually,elevating it to the status of a shrine to a mindless tragedy in the heart of corporate America. Perhaps,with normalcy,the tragedy will reach its closure. After all,the “survivor tree” is a tenacious symbol of a city that literally and figuratively,loves to stand tall.