World Trade Center

Published in Domus in 1973, the nearly complete Twin Towers seemed "out of scale" even in the context of Manhattan.

originally published in Domus 524/July 1973

The World Trade Center, built in "downtown" Manhattan by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, was officially opened in May, even if it has been operating since December 1970 and is not yet completed (it will be at the end of 1974). The presence of two enormous towers is out of scale in Manhattan's context both from the air and from the sea. The towers, 412 meters (110 floors) tall, are two giant, smooth squares. In the winter, icicles that form along the outer edges of the structure can be deadly if they fall. The wind is channeled between the two towers with such violence that the pedestrian space between the towers has been closed to prevent injury to people carrying umbrellas. When it's hot, the heat produced by the towers creates real clouds in the sky. Fifty thousand people work here and eighty thousand visitors are expected every day. The total floor area is more than one square kilometer (one million square meters). Tons of waste are produced every day; power consumption is more than one hundred megawatts daily.

The Empire State Building lost its distinction as the "tallest building in the world" on October 19, 1970 when the first of the two towers was completed. But the race continues. Chicago's Sears Roebuck Building has exceeded the World Trade Center by thirty feet and rumor has it that they are thinking of raising the Empire....
View of Manhattan from the south, World Trade Center at left, from Domus 524/July 1973.
View of Manhattan from the south, World Trade Center at left, from Domus 524/July 1973.
The uniqueness of the WTC is quantitative. The structure itself (unlike the structures of towers like Lever House, with structural central cores, cantilevered floors and curtain walls) is a perimeter-bearing wall as if in masonry: a wall of interlocking steel elements overlapping to form a stable structure (each element, two or three storeys in height, weighs twenty-two tons). The tower is rigid like a giant empty jar and can withstand the force of a tornado having winds of over two hundred km/h with no noticeable sway.
The World Trade Center, New York, from Domus 524/July 1973.
The World Trade Center, New York, from Domus 524/July 1973.
Like the structure, the image of the two towers has "no accents," meaning no accents in proportion to its scale. This assertion is essentially a dimensional one. But as such, it applies only at a "distance" (visual and conceptual). From a distance, in the city and from the peninsula, the two towers affirm themselves, in their bulk, as a unified force.
Like the structure, the image of the two towers has 'no accents,' meaning no accents in proportion to its scale. This assertion is essentially a dimensional one. But as such, it applies only at a 'distance' (visual and conceptual).
The World Trade Center, New York, from Domus 524/July 1973.
The World Trade Center, New York, from Domus 524/July 1973.
Viewed up close, they are separate. For the street-level observer—the on-site observer—the pseudo-Gothic motif with columns that begin to "branch off" on the eighth floor dominates; while the extraordinary "duration" of the over one-hundred storeys, viewed in perspective from below, with the blankness of their surface and lack of scale elements, is foreshortened, seeming smaller. That's the punishment.

More recent

Latest on Domus

China Germany India Mexico, Central America and Caribbean Sri Lanka icon-camera close icon-comments icon-down-sm icon-download icon-facebook icon-heart icon-heart icon-next-sm icon-next icon-pinterest icon-play icon-plus icon-prev-sm icon-prev Search icon-twitter icon-views