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World Trade Center

A World Trade Center (WTC) brings together businesses and government agencies involved in foreign trade. The World Trade Centers Association is an organization of nearly 300 World Trade Centers in almost 100 countries. [1] (http://iserve.wtca.org/)

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World Trade Center of New York City

The World Trade Center was a complex of several buildings around a central plaza, near the foot of Manhattan in New York City. It was designed by 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 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.

Although the towers became an undeniable icon of New York City, they 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 failed to attract the anticipated clientele; over time, various governmental organizations became key tenants. Moreover, the immense "superblock" plaza, which replaced a more traditional, dense-packed neighborhood, was regarded by some critics as a 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 them 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 provided offered city-dwellers and tourists alike a perspective on the region that became central to the city's identity.

A Terrorist Target

1993 World Trade Center bombing: On February 26, 1993, a bomb planted by terrorists 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 Islamic extremist conspirators were convicted of the crime in 1997 and 1998 and given prison sentences of 240 years each.

The twin towers and 7 World Trade Center, an adjacent 47-storey building, collapsed in a terrorist attack on September 11, 2001, when two commercial jetliners were deliberately crashed into the twin towers. For details on this terrorist attack: see September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attack. For details of the tenants at the time of the attack, see One World Trade Center tenants and Two World Trade Center tenants.

The twin towers

The twin towers, photographed from the west

Each of the towers had 110 stories. The heights of the towers were 417 m (1368 feet) (tower one, the northern one with a huge antenna on top) and 415 m (1362 feet) (tower two, the southern one with a spectator platform). When the towers were completed in 1972 (tower one) and 1973 (tower two) they were the tallest buildings on earth, 100 feet 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."

The towers held the height record only briefly. As the building neared completion, work had already begun on Chicago's Sears Tower, which would climb to 1,450 feet. Since the World Trade Center's destruction, the Empire State Building is again the tallest building in New York, after spending almost 30 years as the third-tallest.

To solve the problem of wind sway or vibration 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 contained 240 vertical steel columns called Vierendeel trusses around the outside of the building, these were bound to each other using ordinary steel trusses. In additon, 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.

Of the 110 stories twelve were set aside for technical services, in four three-floor areas evenly spread up the building. All the remaining floors were free for open-plan offices.

World Trade Center site, January 2003
(the linear, sloping structure in the middle
of the pit is the lines 1 and 9 subway tube)
The excavation of the foundations of the building, 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. Excavation of about 1 million cubic yards 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 spoil was used to create 23 acres 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. 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.

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