World Trade Center

This article is about the World Trade Center complex in New York City; see this article for the many other buildings around the world that have also been called "world trade centers".
The twin towers, photographed from the west
The twin towers, photographed from the west

The World Trade Center in New York City was a complex of seven buildings around a central plaza, near the south end of Manhattan in the downtown financial district. Best known for its iconic 110-story Twin Towers, after having survived a bombing on February 26, 1993, all of the original buildings in the complex were destroyed in the September 11, 2001 attacks; three collapsed (1, 2, 7) and the others (3, 4, 5, 6) were damaged beyond repair.



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Twin Towers in July, 2001
An aerial view of the WTC
An aerial view of the WTC

The complex towers were designed by Japanese American architect Minoru Yamasaki with Antonio Brittiochi, and was one of the most striking American implementations of the architectural ethic of Le Corbusier, as well as the seminal expression of Yamasaki's gothic modernist tendencies. Constructed in the early 1970s under the auspices of the semi-autonomous Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the WTC had its ribbon-cutting ceremony on April 4, 1973. Ultimately the complex came to consist of 7 buildings, but its most notable features were the main twin towers. On any given day, some 50,000 people worked in the towers, with another 200,000 passing through as visitors. The complex was so large that it had its own ZIP Code, 10048.

Although the towers became an undeniable icon of New York City, they were not without their flaws and were troubled in many ways. Initially conceived (as the name suggests) as a complex dedicated to companies and organizations directly involved in "world trade," they at first failed to attract the anticipated clientele; during the WTC's early years various governmental organizations became key tenants. It was not until the 1980s that the city's perilous financial state eased, after which an increasing number of private companies - mostly financial firms tied to Wall Street - became tenants.

Moreover, the immense "superblock" plaza they sat upon, which replaced a more traditional, dense-packed neighborhood, was regarded by some critics as an inhospitable environment that disrupted the intricate flows of traffic typical of Manhattan. For example, in his book The Pentagon of Power, the technical historian Lewis Mumford denounced the center as an "example of the purposeless giantism and technological exhibitionism that are now eviscerating the living tissue of every great city." However, the spectacular views available from the WTC's observation deck (located on top of the South Tower) and the Windows on the World restaurant (located on top of the North Tower) made up for its flaws, by offering city-dwellers and tourists alike a perspective on the region that became central to the city's identity.

The Twin Towers

A view of the towers against the sunlight
A view of the towers against the sunlight
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The WTC site building arrangement.
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A typical floor layout and elevator arrangement of the WTC towers.

Each of the WTC towers had 110 stories. Tower One (which featured a massive antenna) stood 1,368 ft (417 m) high and Tower Two (which contained the observation deck) was 1,362 ft (415 m) tall. When the towers were completed in 1972 and 1973, respectively, they were the tallest buildings on Earth, 100 feet (30 m) taller than the Empire State Building. Their size was the subject of a joke during a press conference unveiling the landmarks. Minoru Yamasaki was asked: "Why two 110-story buildings? Why not one 220-story building?" His response was: "I didn't want to lose the human scale."

Another joke was that the towers looked like the boxes that the Chrysler Building and Empire State Building came out of.

For a time the local television station on Channel 11 used the towers as a graphic representation of its channel number.

The WTC towers held the height record only briefly. As the building neared completion in 1973, work had already begun on Chicago's Sears Tower, which ultimately reached 1,450 ft (442 m). With the World Trade Center's destruction, the Empire State Building again became the tallest building in New York, after spending almost 30 years as the third-tallest.

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A view of the towers from below

To solve the problem of wind sway or vibration in the construction of the towers, chief engineer Leslie Robertson took a then unusual approach - instead of bracing the buildings corner-to-corner or using internal walls, the towers were essentially hollow steel tubes. Each tower thus contained 240 vertical steel columns called Vierendeel trusses around the outside of the building, which were bound to each other using ordinary steel trusses. In addition, 10,000 dampers were included in the structure. With a strong shell such as this, the internal floors could be simply light steel and concrete with internal walls not needed for structural integrity, creating a tower that for its size was extremely light. This method of construction also meant that the twin towers had the world's highest load-bearing walls. The exterior steel supports were spaced 22 inches (559 mm) apart, and narrow windows filled the gaps in between.

Of the 110 stories, eight were set aside for technical services (mechanical floors), in four two-floor areas evenly spread up the building. All the remaining floors were free for open-plan offices. Each tower had 350,000 m² (3.8 million ft²) of office space, ample room for companies to set up shop. Altogether the entire complex of seven buildings had 1.04 km² (11.2 million ft²) of space. During the 1990s some 500 companies, especially financial firms, had offices in the complex, including Morgan Stanley, Aon Corporation, Salomon Brothers, and the Port Authority itself.

The twin towers were also the first supertall buildings to use sky lobbies, spaces where commuters can switch from one local elevator to another. Located on the 44th and 77th floors of each tower, those sky lobbies enabled the elevators (each tower had 104) to be used efficiently while taking up a minimum of valuable office space.

Five smaller buildings stood around the 16 acre (65,000 m²) block. One was the 22-floor Vista Hotel, later a Marriott Hotel, that was squeezed between the two towers. Three low-rise buildings in the same hollow tube design as the towers also stood around the plaza; they housed the US Customs Service and the US Commodities Exchange. In 1987, a 46-floor office building called 7 WTC was built north of the block. Under the block was a highly profitable underground shopping mall, which in turn led to various mass transit facilities, particularly the New York City subway system and the Port Authority's own PATH trains connecting Manhattan to Jersey City.

The excavation of the foundations of the building, known as the Bathtub, located on the former Radio Row, was particularly complicated since there were two subway tubes close by needing protection without service interruption. A six-level basement was built in the foundations. The excavation of about 1 million cubic yards (760,000 m³) of earth and rock created a $90 million real estate asset for the project owner, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which helped offset the enormous loss in revenues which came from the tax breaks given to the Trade Center itself. The soil was used to create 23 acres (93,000 m²) of landfill in the Hudson river next to the World Trade Center site, which became the site of Battery Park City (still under development).

One of the world's largest gold depositories was stored underneath the World Trade Center, owned by a group of commercial banks. The 1993 bomb detonated close to the vault, but it withstood the explosion, as did the towers. One source estimates the 1993 value of the gold at one billion dollars, believed to be owned by Kuwaiti interests. That same source claims that when the World Trade Center was destroyed, the amount of gold "far exceed[ed] the 1993 levels." The gold was finally recovered in its entirety in late 2001.

See World Trade Center site for reconstruction news.

1993 terrorist attack

Main article: 1993 World Trade Center bombing

On February 26, 1993, just after 12 PM, a Ryder truck filled with explosives was planted by terrorists and exploded in the underground garage of the north tower, opening a 30m hole through 4 sublevels of concrete. Six people were killed and over a thousand injured. Six Islamist extremist conspirators were convicted of the crime in 1997 and 1998 and given prison sentences of 240 years each.

To commemorate the bombing of the tower, a reflecting pool was installed with the names of those who had been killed in the blast. Following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, relief works found a single fractured piece of this fountain; to date it is the only remaining part of the 1993 memorial that survived the collapse of the towers.

2001 terrorist attack

The World Trade Center on fire
Main Article: September 11, 2001 attacks

The twin towers and 7 World Trade Center collapsed in a terrorist attack on September 11, 2001, when two commercial jetliners were deliberately crashed into the twin towers. The four smaller buildings were also severely damaged in the debris and were later demolished. For details on this terrorist attack, see September 11, 2001 attacks; for details of the towers' collapse, see Collapse of the World Trade Center. For details of the tenants at the time of the attack, see One World Trade Center tenants and Two World Trade Center tenants. As of February 2005, a total of 2,749 death certificates related to the WTC attacks had been filed. All but 13 persons died on September 11; of the 13 persons who were injured on September 11 and died subsequently, three persons died in other states, one each in Massachusetts, Missouri, and New Jersey. Of these 2,749 decedents, 2,117 (77%) were males and 632 (23%) were females. Remains of 1,588 of the 2,749 people who died at the World Trade Center, or 58%, were identified on the basis of recovered physical remains. The median age for these decedents was 39 years (range: 2--85 years); the median age was 38 years for females (range: 2--81 years) and 39 years for males (range: 3--85 years). Three people were aged <5 years, and three were aged >80 years.

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A cross at Ground Zero, December 2004

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The Freedom Tower as it might look.
The Freedom Tower as it might look.

The World Trade Center is slated to be rebuilt as a new mixed-use complex of buildings called Memory Foundations, including the 1776 ft (541 m) Freedom Tower. Note that the height of 1776 ft (541 m) was chosen as a reference to the year of American independence. The new 7 World Trade Center is now under construction, and has recently been "topped-off" (meaning the structural steel has reached the full height of the building).

The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, the agency tasked with coordinating the reconstruction of the WTC site sponsored an international design competition for the World Trade Center Memorial in spring 2003. The winning design, Michael Arad and Peter Walker's Reflecting Absence, was chosen in January 2004.

The Norwegian architecture company Snøhetta was chosen for design of the Freedom Cultural Center on the northwest corner of the site. The Cultural Center will contain the Freedom Center which will attempt to trace the history of freedom and the Drawing Center.

While the master plan has been named Memory Foundations, the future site will continue to use the name of the World Trade Center, as will the New York City subway and PATH train stations that serve the complex. A temporary PATH station, largely following the layout of the original, is the first part of the complex to have re-opened.

On November 22, 2004, New York Republican Governor George Pataki named the living former presidents as honorary members of the board rebuilding the World Trade Center.

On May 18, 2005 Donald Trump, long-time opponent of the Freedom Tower design, held a press conference where he endorsed the alternative "Twin Towers II" proposal for rebuilding the Twin Towers with a design closely resembling the originals, but with various safety, structural, and technological improvements, and one story taller. (New York Times (

Bayonne TV Tower

By the collapse of the WTC many broadcasting facilities for TV and FM-radio for the area of New York were destroyed. As permanent replacement for them, it was considered to build a 609.6 metre high TV tower at Bayonne, New Jersey, because one thought a transmission site away from the coast would allow a much bigger reception zone than a transmission site in New York at the coast. In spite of this advantages the plans seem to have been cancelled.

World Trade Center buildings

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Manhattan from Jersey City on the 2004 memorial of the September 11 attacks.

See also

External links







de:World Trade Center es:Torres Gemelas del WTC eo:World Trade Center it:World Trade Center fr:World Trade Center he:מגדלי התאומים nl:World Trade Center ja:ニューヨーク世界貿易センタービル no:Verdens Handelssenter i New York pl:World Trade Center pt:World Trade Center simple:World Trade Center fi:World Trade Center sv:World Trade Center zh:紐約世界貿易中心


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