Thursday, June 11, 2015

Dazzling New Design for Two World Trade Center

A soaring 80-story tower planned for the last unoccupied site at the 16-acre World Trade Center complex may finally get off the ground next year, thanks to a deal with media conglomerates 21st Century Fox and News Corp to anchor the project. The two companies, both headed by billionaire media mogul Rupert Murdoch, have signed a letter of intent to lease 1.3 million square feet of space at Two World Trade Center. The deal will help Larry Silverstein finally restart construction at the site, which has been stalled since 2008. Engineering plans are now being developed so that work could begin sometime next year, with completion by September 2021, the 20th anniversary of the attacks.
After the twin towers toppled on September 11, 2001, it seemed inevitable that two new towers would take their place—a symbol of American resilience. The reality, though, was anything but inevitable. While the first of those towers, One World Trade Center, was completed in 2013, the second tower's development has been stalled for years.

Earlier this month, Danish architect Bjarke Ingels replaced Norman Foster as lead designer of the 1,340-foot-tall Two World Trade Center.

His vision for the re-born Two World Trade Center rises up in tiers, like a staircase. The 2.8 million-square-foot tower will be separated into seven sections, each a little smaller than the one below it. At the base of each tier is a deck, which will be landscaped to evoke varying climates, from tropical to arctic.

The architect describes it as being "like seven different buildings stacked on top of each other," and the plan is for each tier to be taken up by a different company. The building will appear to "lean" toward the direction of the One World Trade Center, and is aligned so as to not spoil existing views to St. Paul’s Chapel.
Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox and News Corp. will take up headquarters in the bottom two tiers, while the top five will go to future tenants.

Larry Silverstein, the 84-year-old real estate developer who leased the Twin Towers before their destruction, has been trying to get Two World Trade Center built. He commissioned British architect Norman Foster to design the building, which he envisioned as a gleaming 79-story trophy along the Hudson River, crowned by a slanted glass roof divided into four diamonds.

However, when News Corp. signed on as the anchor tenant, his design looked out of touch.

James Murdoch, CEO at News Corp., didn’t care for the building, which he thought was more suited for an investment bank than a modern media company. He brought in Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) and Thomas Heatherwick, the designers of Google’s new mega-campus, to give it a fresh look.

In addition to the Googleplex, BIG is designing the $2 billion master plan for the Smithsonian Institute's campus in Washington DC, and was awarded $335 million to upgrade storm defenses around Lower Manhattan. The pyramid-shaped W57, a luxury tower on nearing completion on West 57th Street, was one of Ingels' first major projects in America.

The once-dowdy area known as the Financial District has been transformed by an influx of companies from the advertising, design, and tech industries.

“This isn’t your grandfather’s Wall Street,” Silverstein said. “While still the international capital of finance, Lower Manhattan has also remade itself into the new media and entertainment capital of America.”

21st Century Fox and News Corp, which are currently based at 1211 and 1185 Sixth Avenue, plan to relocate their 5,000 employees to 1.3 million square feet at new tower after those leases expire in 2020.

The BIG design is conceived for a media company and incorporates office design with nearly one acre of outdoor terraces with lush plantings, open-planned offices, and will accommodate basketball courts, an indoor running track, cafeterias, and screening rooms.

The base of the tower will be outfitted with open TV studios and newsrooms, with 350,000 square feet devoted to shops and restaurants, as well as a public plaza and access points to the 11 transit lines at the site.

In the parts of the building occupied by Fox and News Corp, caf├ęs for employees will adjoin the gardens.

Elevator shafts—the vital spinal column of any skyscraper—will be concentrated on the western end of the structure, allowing capacious space for newsrooms. Winding staircases set against the glassy exterior wall are meant to ensure that the companies feel internally connected, rather than divided into floors and fiefdoms. The building’s topmost floor will house a Fox screening room with a stunning view.

Because of the complexities of the World Trade Center's redevelopment, engineers will have to retrofit the new design to foundations already constructed by the Port Authority for the shopping mall located beneath the site. The developer has no plans for construction crews to begin disassembling the four below-ground floors.

Work at Two World Trade Center originally began in 2008 but was discontinued while Silverstein waited for a commitment from a major tenant.

Engineering plans are now being developed so that construction could restart sometime in 2016, with a target completion by September 2021, the 20th anniversary of the attacks.

The tower is expected to rise along with 3 WTC, another 80-story, 1,170-foot-tall office tower under construction to the south. 3 World Trade Center is scheduled to open in 2018.

That timetable, however, presumes that the project proceeds as planned—never a foregone conclusion at the World Trade Center.

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