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An abstract vision of the site’s future is also a high-tech marketing display.
As work at the World Trade Center site progresses steadily, a matryoshka-like replica of it has taken shape on the 10th floor of 7 World Trade. With a view of the construction below, the Silverstein Properties marketing suite occupies the same floor as the WTC architects’ annex offices, providing a tableau of the working architects as well as the completed site to prospective tenants of towers Two, Three, and Four. Scaled architecture studio Radii Inc. have been designing models of the site since its earliest phases, so Silverstein’s senior VP of marketing and communications approached Radii partners Ed Wood and Leszek Stefanski with his conceptual ideas for the diorama. “He wanted it to be big,” said Wood. “Our first questions was, ‘What are the ceiling heights?’”
With 14-foot ceilings and 25 square feet of floor space, the team mapped out a footprint of Lower Manhattan from Chambers to Albany streets on the north and south and from Hudson to just past City Hall from west to east. Radii then began to experiment with varying levels of details and abstraction for the WTC buildings. “When you abstract a building, it can be as challenging as making it photo-real,” said Wood. “How do you distill it down to an iconic replica but still have it read as a whole?”
They decided to render the models in ⅜-inch cast acrylic with a P-95 finish, a factory matte that lends a frosted appearance to the crystalline forms. More than 60 sheets of 4-by-8-foot acrylic went into the full model. Fenestration is laser-scored on the exterior, and interiors contain ghosts of interior floor plates and cores. Only details that point to the essence of each design are included: Roger’s structural ladder accentuates its verticality, while Calatrava’s transportation hub is distilled into a bony spine and Snøhetta’s visitors center into a gestural representation of the building’s gradated skin.
Towers are lit with interior columns wired with rows of LEDs, a concept developed, along with a backlit transparency of the street grid and subway lines, in collaboration with an exhibit electronics technician. Each LED color identifies separate leasing zones, allowing marketing presentations to control the display via iPad.
Even with a two-month design process and thousands of parts to be pre-assembled, labeled, disassembled, wrapped, and transported to the marketing suite, the entire installation took place over a long weekend, in time for a post-Memorial Day opening. Ultimately, though, Wood said the biggest challenge was making sure his team had the latest information about the ever-changing World Trade Center site and building designs. As a result, Radii became a sort of clearinghouse for the latest details, often fielding calls seeking the most privileged information. “We even get calls asking how many trees are on the site,” said Wood. “There are 463. And they will grow to 60 feet when they are mature.”