Get access

Transforming a tower: how did the One World Trade Center eclipse the Freedom Tower?


  • The information, practices and views in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG).


This article explores the transformation of a world-famous supertall skyscraper in Lower Manhattan. Due to unique circumstances and wide exposure via the media, the case of the Freedom Tower/One World Trade Center makes possible looking at the intricacies that remain largely out of the public eye in less-publicised projects. Dictated by powerful real-estate interests, the initial vision of rebuilding was to replicate the bulk of commercial space. Next, in the stormy planning stages, rhetoric of architecture and design was intended to alleviate antagonism towards rebuilding a commercial superblock. Finally, as construction progressed, financial calculations began to occupy a critical role in the rebuilding process, giving the impression of a standard and, at the same time, a distinctive corporate tower. The case of this supertall does not simply conform to the standard logic of skyscrapers; instead, with state intervention and prolonged development, the interpretation of supertalls questions the logic of high-rises we have known so far. A better understanding of these mushrooming towers requires looking beyond simplistic explanations and stressing the textures that generate and uphold such structures.