In her new book One World Trade Center: Biography of the Building and in an interview with Signature, architecture critic and historian Judith Dupré urges an understanding of the building through its numerous contexts as a commercial space, an engineering feat, a part of New York’s skyline, a monument and a political symbol.
SIGNATURE: One World Trade Center’s basic shape is an obelisk made from upward and downward triangles. Is that how you’d describe it?
JUDITH DUPRÈ: It was inspired by the Washington Monument, which is a classic obelisk form. The obelisk was first used to mark land ownership. The Romans borrowed it from the Egyptians as a commemorative device, which is why the Washington Monument is an obelisk. David Childs, the lead architect on One World Trade Center, had a long career in Washington, D.C., and knew the Washington Monument well. It’s an office tower and a commemorative symbol, and it’s the only building in the world that does that.
SIG: Who are some of the more recognizable tenants in One World Trade Center?
JD: Condé Nast was an extremely important anchor tenant for the building. Their moving from Times Square to the World Trade Center shifted the focus of the industries in Lower Manhattan, which has traditionally been financial businesses. Condé Nast’s move was a magnet for young, creative media companies that are filling up One World Trade Center. Much of that has to do with subway access to those buildings.
SIG: There’s a subway stop going directly into One World Trade Center, right?
JD: Absolutely. There are 11 subway lines that converge on the World Trade Center. When Condé Nast was considering whether to move there, one of their first questions was how would they get their young, creative employees there who live in New Jersey, Queens, the Bronx and other places around New York City. […]