We’ve been watching its progression for many months now.
The progress of the rise of the new towers is, undeniable. The city’s skyline forever altered by the devastating events of that day, but now, something new emerges. Almost overnight, the new 1 World Trade Center, the Freedom Tower, pierces the space where the twins towers once occupied.
Bear with me. I know I’m stating the obvious, but I had grown accustomed to the absence of the twin towers. A coping mechanism, really, but now, at any point in the city, there’s this new tower, piercing the skyline. I’m surprised by how much it rattles me. I didn’t loose anyone to the attacks. But I’m a New Yorker now. I know things change here often, the definition of a New York Minute, but still…
Minoru Yamasaki was a pre-eminent Japanese American architect that designed two significant developments in the mid and late twentieth century. Pruitt-Igoe Houses in St. Louis and the World Trade Center. Recently, I, with a couple of my urban planning nerd friends, went to a screening for a documentary unpacking the legacy of the largest public housing development in the United States, built in 1954 then leveled by demolition in 1972. Pruitt-Igoe was celebrated as an achievement in public housing, a collection of 33 buildings, but within its short lifespan, it became a haven for crime and extreme poverty, an albatross to the St. Louis Housing Authority, whose shortsighted underwriting contributed to the accelerated decline of those buildings.
The first phase of demolition was televised in 1972.
1972 would also be the year that the doors of the Twin Towers, Yamasaki’s latest creation, would open. As we watched the film, I wondered about the architect. Yamasaki died more than two decades ago. He would never know of the two bombings of his greatest masterpiece, and how the second bombing obliterated it from skyline.
The cycle of a building life. Create. Build. Destroy.
She’s almost topped off now, this new freedom tower. A prefabricated spire of 1,776 feet to mount her head. Heavy is this crown for this new building. It took a good ten years, multiple arguments over its design, negotiations with property owners, city officials, the families, so many hands and she emerges, dwarfing all other surrounding buildings. She is history. She will be an office complex. She is steel and glass. She is symbol.
I don’t work in lower Manhattan anymore. But each trip in recent months, I look up, cooly observe the progress. Now, as the tower nears completion, she insinuates her presence in my reality. It feels funny.
Did anyone ever witness a phoenix rise from ashes?