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What Are They Building on Ground Zero?

Plans for the New World Trade Center

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Photos of Ground Zero in New York City show piles of dirt, scaffolding, and construction cranes. What are they building there? Will New York ever recover from the ruins left after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks? The answer is a resounding yes. While construction has stalled on some projects, skyscrapers are rising. Seven World Trade Center was the first completed. Here's a status report on reconstruction at the New York World Trade Center, and a look into the not-so-distant future.

1 World Trade Center (Freedom Tower)

This 2006 rendering shows the top of the proposed Freedom Tower
Image by SPI, dbox via Getty Images

Lead Architect: David Childs
Construction Began: June 2006
Expected Completion: 2014

As New York removed debris from Ground Zero, architect Daniel Libeskind proposed a sweeping master plan with a record-breaking skyscraper he called Freedom Tower. A symbolic cornerstone was placed in July 4, 2004, but two years passed before construction began. Architect David Childs became the lead architect for Freedom Tower, while Libeskind focused on the overall plans for the World Trade Center site. Now called One World Trade Center, or Tower 1, the central skyscraper is 1,368 feet (104 stories), with an enormous 408-foot steel spire antenna. On May 10, 2013, the final tower sections were in place and Tower One reached its full and symbolic height of 1776 feet.

2 World Trade Center

Top of World Trade Center Tower 2 at Night
Rendering: Foster and Partners, courtesy of Silverstein Properties

Lead Designer: Norman Foster, Foster and Partners
Foundation Construction Began: September 2008
Expected Completion: Foundation at grade-level; Tower construction pending real-estate market conditions

At 78 stories (1,254 feet), Tower 2 was slated to be the second tallest building at the New York World Trade Center. With a dazzling diamond-shape crest, 2 World Trade Center also promised to be one of the most interesting buildings at Ground Zero. However, a troubled economy has delayed construction. The near future is uncertain for Norman Foster's skyscraper.

3 World Trade Center

Detail of Tower 3 at the New York World Trade Center, Richard Rogers Partnership
Image: RRP, courtesy of Silverstein Properties

Lead Designer: Richard Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners
Foundation Work Began: July 2010
Expected Completion: 2016

High-tech architect Richard Rogers has designed a skyscraper using a complex system of diamond-shaped braces. Because Tower 3 will have no interior columns, the upper floors will offer unimpeded views of the World Trade Center site. Expected to rise 80 stories, 3 World Trade Center will become almost as tall as the celebrated One World Trade Center.

In September 2012, the lower "podium" reached its 7 story height. A time-frame for the completion of the tower is to be determined.

4 World Trade Center

WTC Tower 4
Rendering: Maki and Associates, Zy and Partners, courtesy of Silverstein Properties

Lead Designer: Fumihiko Maki, Maki and Associates
Construction Began: February 2008
Expected Completion: November 2013

WTC Tower 4 is an elegant, minimalist design. Each corner of the skyscraper rises to a different height, with the highest elevation at 977 feet. Japanese architect Fumihiko Maki designed 4 World Trade Center to complete the spiral configuration of towers on the World Trade Center site. See Maki's 4 WTC nearly complete.

World Trade Center Transportation Hub

Plans for the Fulton Street Transit Center near Fulton Street and Broadway
Courtesy Metropolitan Transportation Authority

Lead Designer: Santiago Calatrava
Construction Began: September 2005
Expected Completion: 2015

Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava designed a bright, uplifting transportation terminal for the new World Trade Center. Located at Fulton and Broadway Streets, the hub will provide easy access to the World Financial Center (WFC), ferries, and 13 existing subway lines.

The National 9/11 Memorial (Reflecting Absence)

Night view of the National 9/11 Memorial, Reflecting Absence
Squared Design Lab, © National 9/11 Memorial & Museum, WTC Foundation. All Rights Reserved.

Lead Designers: Michael Arad and Peter Walker
Construction Began: March 2006
Completed: September 11, 2011

The long-awaited National 9/11 Memorial lies at the heart and soul of the World Trade Center site. Two pools symbolize the fallen Twin Towers. Known as Reflecting Absence, the memorial is both moving and serene with gushing waterfalls and a tree-lined plaza. For many people, the completion of the National 9/11 Memorial marks the true beginning of recovery.

The National 9/11 Museum

A beam from the destroyed Twin Towers will be displayed inside the National 9/11 Museum
Rendering by Squared Design Lab, Courtesy of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum

Lead Designer: Craig Dykers, Snøhetta
Construction Began: March 2006
Expected Completion: 2014

The National 9/11 Memorial site will incorporate a museum of artifacts that were salvaged from the destroyed buildings. At the entrance, a tall atrium will display two enormous steel trident (three-pronged) columns that survived the terrorist attacks. The atrium will lead down to subterranean exhibition galleries.

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