This is Part IV in a series comparing the construction of the Empire State Building and the World Trade Center. Part I covers the design and construction of the Empire State Building, Part II covers the initial development of the World Trade Center, and Part III covers the
I'm loving this WTC vs ESB series. One thing I'd add to the WTC story is photographer Danny Lyon's monumental, ;), book, The Destruction of Lower Manhattan, 1969, recently back in print. Probably the greatest example of Demolition Porn ever.
I was always fond of the old WTC because it was big and ugly. It looked like two big boxes of staples which I felt was appropriate because it was all about office space. A lot taller buildings were built, and they were much more interestingly shaped. There was a lot of symbolism and an attempt at making a statement. Their sponsors had something to prove, a message to send. The old WTC was like that famous stand selling ducks on Long Island, the one shaped like a duck. It was office space, and it looked exactly like a big box full of office space. That was its message.
I never made it past the 77th floor. A friend of mine had a summer job on the 76th floor, so I went up to visit him. The 77th floor was unleased, so there were no interior walls, just the core and lots of windows with pretty amazing views in all directions.
I'm old enough to remember Radio Row and what was left of the butter and egg district. There was a guy who sold huge bags of pistachios down there, real cheap. For some NYC color, ask about Texas Guinan and butter and egg men.
My favorite photo of the old World Trade Center was of a guy with his pants down mooning the camera. He was up on one of those spires atop one of the towers. It was shot with a wide angle lens, so one could see Brooklyn, Manhattan, the harbor and New Jersey all arrayed around this guy's ass. I assume the photographer was up on one of the many antennae, even higher than the ass spire. (I couldn't resist.) The photographer titled the shot Moon Over Manhattan, and the internet knows nothing about it. Supposedly, when the guy showed the photo to his girlfriend, she had a conniption. He had promised her that he would always wear his safety harness when doing roof work like that, but it's hard to drop one's pants without undoing one's harness.
P.S. Technically, the old WTC was designed to float with that "bathtub" serving as the hull at sea on an ocean of soft dirt. Supposedly, the mass of soil removed was equal to the weight of the buildings.
Enthralling. Best stuff on the web. Perhaps outside of this engineering study: during construction: a group of anti-Vietnam demontrators marched from City Hall to the construction site, where they were beaten up by tool weilding construction workers. The result was the still current split in the Democratic party between Union Workers and Intellectuals. The mixed legacy of the WTC ensures long after 9/11.
Too bad intumescent coatings were not available during the construction period of the WTC. Chances were that if the steel beams and columns would had been protected with intumescent fireproofing instead of the the cementitious type, the buildings may have never collapsed because the coating would had remained adhered to the steel.
Brian, Excellent set of articles and research on both the Empire State Building and twin towers. Many great learnings from both that should be taught over and over to all the stakeholders building projects. Many elements of note are the complex interplay of the stakeholders, prop opponents and opponents of the twin towers.
Thank you for such a great piece!
I'm not 100% sure about this but I think the Towers were tied with each other for the largest skyscrapers in terms of net lettable floor space and have yet to be surpassed.
What a great series on the ESB and WTC!