The One World Trade Center – Meaning and Beauty

The design of the One World Trade Center located in New York displays many elements of architectural theory. Designed by SOM with David M. Childs[1], it was a direct response to the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attack that killed several thousands and collapsed The Twin Towers, two iconic structures within the city’s skyline. Without this devastating attack on the United States, this building would have never existed. The project and skyscraper has an essence of two aspects of theory: meaning and beauty.

The tallest building in the Western Hemisphere holds meaning on several levels of order, eurhythmy, symmetry, propriety, and economy.[2] David Childs notes “[t]he One World Trade Center is a bold icon filling the skyline void left by the fallen towers… [and] speaks about the future and hope as it rises upward in a faceted form.”[3] Symbolically 1776 feet tall, marking the year America’s independence, it has been likened to a lighthouse of hope for the future of the city and nation.[4]  The trade center holds representation of the spirit of the American people through association of its location and purpose of replacement of what was. “The tower is not only a symbol of sustainability and safety [through LEED Gold Certification], but also one of strength, durability, and endurance. For millions of people, One World Trade represents not only hope and perseverance, but the indomitability of the American spirit.”[5]

The building can be classified as a cultural object of modern times through the investment of individuals[6]. The tower sits on a 204 by 204 feet square podium[7], linking it to the platonic form and Plato’s relationship of mathematics to design[8] and the Vitruvian notion of meaningful symmetry and proportion.[9] The building was built uniquely for its environment and its relationships between parts of itself[10],[11] were engrained into the design. Taking away any element would be detrimental to the building and purpose.[12] The tower’s chamfered edges provide unique geometry of eight isosceles triangles with an equilateral octagon in plan, giving way to proportion and careful relationship of basic elements of true form.

The sheer beauty lies within the advanced technology and design efforts to ensure its one of the safest buildings in the nation. “The tower is brute strength veiled in glass,”[13] with a hidden thick concrete core and a structural Le Corbusier-like separate steel frame[14] that can withstand high winds, earthquakes, bomb blasts, and quite possibly an airplane. With specially protected 70 elevator shafts and dedicated safety stairwells, the design purposefully places the importance of the movement of the body through the building[15] in the event of an emergency.[16],[17] These advancements were developed and applied due to the social and political implications of terror that flooded American society.[18]

The One World Trade Center can be considered an architectural prime example of the post-9/11 era that we live in, where beauty of sleek and simplistic modern aesthetics merges with the beast of brute strength, new rigorous building codes[19], and advanced complex technology – the meaning of safety, security, and a peace of mind.


References / Footnotes:

[1] “One World Trade Center / SOM” 14 Sep 2016. ArchDaily. <http://www.archdaily.com/795277/one-world-trade-center-som/>

[2] Plowright, Philip. “Module 4: Meaning.” Design Theory. Lawrence Technological University, Southfield, MI. Lecture. Web.

[3] “One World Trade Center / SOM” 14 Sep 2016. ArchDaily. <http://www.archdaily.com/795277/one-world-trade-center-som/>

[4] Sullivan, Robert. “A Look at the New One World Trade Center.” Architectural Digest. N.p., 02 Sept. 2015. Web. <http://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/one-world-trade-center-new-york-david-childs-article>.

[5] Spinola, Steven. “One World Trade Center a symbol of strength.” Real Estate Weekly. N.p., 10 Nov. 2014. Web. <http://rew-online.com/2014/11/10/one-world-trade-center-a-symbol-of-strength/>.

[6] Mitrovic, Branko. Philosophy for Architects. New York, NY. Princeton Architectural Press. 2011. Print.

[7] “One World Trade Center / SOM” 14 Sep 2016. ArchDaily. <http://www.archdaily.com/795277/one-world-trade-center-som/>

[8] Plowright, Philip. “Module 4: Meaning.” Design Theory. Lawrence Technological University, Southfield, MI. Lecture. Web.

[9] Vitruvius, Pollio, and M H. Morgan. “Vitruvius: The Ten Books on Architecture.” Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1914. PDF.

[10] Plowright, Philip. “Module 8: Beauty Continued.” Design Theory. Lawrence Technological University, Southfield, MI. Lecture. Web.

[11] Plowright, Philip. “Module 7: Beauty.” Design Theory. Lawrence Technological University, Southfield, MI. Lecture. Web.

[12] Mitrovic, Branko. Philosophy for Architects. New York, NY. Princeton Architectural Press. 2011. Print.

[13] “One World Trade Center / SOM” 14 Sep 2016. ArchDaily. <http://www.archdaily.com/795277/one-world-trade-center-som/>

[14] Plowright, Philip. “Module 6: Meaning – Modernism & Post Modernism.” Design Theory. Lawrence Technological University, Southfield, MI. Lecture. Web.

[15] Plowright, Philip. “Module 5: Meaning – Modernity & Modernism” Design Theory. Lawrence Technological University, Southfield, MI. Lecture. Web.

[16] “One World Trade Center / SOM” 14 Sep 2016. ArchDaily. <http://www.archdaily.com/795277/one-world-trade-center-som/>

[17] Sullivan, Robert. “A Look at the New One World Trade Center.” Architectural Digest. N.p., 02 Sept. 2015. Web. <http://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/one-world-trade-center-new-york-david-childs-article>.

[18] Mitrovic, Branko. Philosophy for Architects. New York, NY. Princeton Architectural Press. 2011. Print.

[19] Craven, Jackie. “What Have We Learned About Building After 9/11? US Architects Face Rigorous New Rules.” ThoughtCo. 2016. Web. <https://www.thoughtco.com/what-we-learned-after-911-178422>.


Class: Design Theory, Master of Architecture, Lawrence Technological University

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