Skyscrapers and the WTC Towers
September 11, 2002 will mark the one-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the United States of America and the World Trade Center. “Although the buildings are no more, they will inspire future generations of Americans as the summit of architectural ambition and the zenith of human achievement,” explains Bill Harris, an expert on New York’s historical landmarks. With their rectangular shape looming above the New York skyline, the Twin Towers came to represent an entire city—and even an entire culture.
Guy F. Tozolli, President of the World Trade Center Association, said: “One of the ways we have addressed the evil of September 11 is by our increased resolve to accomplish our mission of enhancing world trade, global economic development and world peace through supporting the establishment and successful operation of individual World Trade Centers as part of a worldwide alliance of World Trade Centers.” The World Trade Center Association is building a new worldwide headquarters at 60 E. 42nd Street, Suite 1901, New York, N.Y.
What is a World Trade Center?
The World Trade Center complex in New York City was not the only World Trade Center, although it was one of the first. Other pioneering World Trade Centers were started in Houston, New Orleans, and Tokyo. New York’s World Trade Center was certainly the most well-known because of its spectacular “Twin Towers.”
Today, there are nearly 300 World Trade Centers in almost 100 countries. The World Trade Center Association was established in 1970 as a not-for-profit, non-political, multi-national association to facilitate trade by bringing together exporters, importers and service providers.
Much more than just buildings or organizations, World Trade Centers are symbols of local economic strength and prosperity, as well as bustling hubs of export activity. World Trade Centers bring together private businesses and government agencies involved in global commerce, provide essential trade services, and stimulate the economy of the region that they serve.
Having a World Trade Center address gives a company prime access and continuous exposure to all of the services, organizations and individuals that are essential for success in international commerce—all under one roof, kind of like a business shopping center.
Did You Know…?
A Chicago World Trade Center building was designed in 1982. At 2,500 feet and 210 stories high, it would be even taller than the one in New York, but it was never built.
Reaching for the Sky
Skyscrapers were a product of the 18th century Industrial Revolution. New inventions such as steam engines, electricity, steel, and safety elevators changed the way people lived and worked. The first building to be called a skyscraper was the Home Insurance Building, built in Chicago in 1884-1885. Although only ten stories high, it was nevertheless a giant of its time.
The Great Pyramid in Egypt (480 ft.) was the tallest structure in the world for about 4,500 years, until the Eiffel Tower (986 ft.) was built in France in 1889. After that, skyscrapers kept getting taller and taller. New York City—the skyscraper capitol of the world—seemed to be one huge construction site through the 1920’s as that downtown skyline kept growing upward.
The Empire State building (1250 ft.) was the tallest building in the world from 1931-1971, and it is once again the tallest building in New York City. The World Trade Towers (1,368 ft.) were the tallest buildings in the world from 1971-1973. Then the Sears Tower in Chicago (1,454 ft.) became the world’s tallest from 1974-1988. The Petronas Towers in Malaysia (1,476 ft.) have been the tallest buildings in the world since then. Currently under construction, Taiwan’s Taipei Financial Center (1,667 ft.) will be the world's tallest building upon completion in 2003.
Early skyscrapers had to be built on solid bedrock because they were so heavy. This is one reason why so many were built on Manhattan, a rocky island in New York City. The bedrock there is relatively close to the surface, especially at the lower end. Skyscrapers also provided a solution to the high cost of land in the city.
WTC “Twin Tower” Facts
The World’s Oldest Skyscraper—Not!
The Tower of Babel was an ancient Babylonian structure that would have been the world’s oldest skyscraper. “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower whose top is in the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves.” (Genesis 11:4) In reality, the tower probably only had seven stories. God had looked down at the arrogant men who were building it, and confused them by making everyone speak in different languages; therefore the tower remained unfinished.
America’s Top 10 Skyscrapers, by Edward Ricciuti, 1998. (Everything you want to know about America’s most unique and amazing landmark buildings, written for young readers.)
Building Big, by David Macaulay, 2000. (This companion book to the PBS series contains a chapter on skyscrapers, and features Macaulay’s descriptive text and detailed line drawings.)
Into the Sky, by Ryan Ann Hunter, 1998. (This colorful, informative picture book about how skyscrapers are built will be enjoyed by even the youngest architects.)
Skyscrapers (Kids Discover series), 1994. (A popular back issue in the Kids Discover magazine series, it’s full of interesting information, amazing facts, fun photos, and related activities.)
Skyscrapers, by Judith Dupre, 1996. (A history of the world’s most famous skyscrapers.)
Skyscrapers! Super Structures to Design & Build, by Carol A. Johmann, 2001. (A cartoon-like introduction to skyscrapers, with hands-on activities for kids.)
Tonka: Building the Skyscraper, by Justine Korman, 1999. (A child’s-eye view of how a skyscraper is designed and constructed, from the ground up.)
Unbuilding, by David Macaulay, 1987. (Fictional story of the dismantling and removal of the Empire State Building, with factual information about the building’s history and structure.)
The World Trade Center: A Tribute, by Bill Harris, 2001. (The author deftly weaves together the architectural, cultural, political, and financial history of the World Trade Center with over 120 magnificent photos, and a tastefully done final chapter about its untimely demise.)
Understanding September 11, by Mitch Frank. (Written especially for kids and illustrated with lots of photos and maps, a Time magazine reporter answers questions about 9/11’s tragic events.)
www.skyscrapers.com (The world’s largest database on skyscrapers and tall structures; includes news, facts, statistics, building materials, technical data, dates, photos, building sketches, etc.)
www.skyscraper.org (This website contains a pictorial timeline of the world’s tallest buildings, as well as links to articles of historical and analytical interest regarding the World Trade Towers.)
http://iserve.wtca.org/intro_history.html (A pictorial history of the World Trade Center in New York, from the World Trade Center Association.)
www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/wtc (PBS's companion site to the NOVA episode "Why the Towers Fell," that was broadcast on April 30, 2002. Follow a team of forensic engineers during their investigation into the Twin Towers' collapse. Hear a survivor’s story, watch a video, explore the structure of metal, read letters from structural engineers and eyewitnesses, and much more.)
www.mcdougallittell.com/disciplines/soc.cfm (Remembering September 11th: links, lesson plans, and classroom activities for students and teachers.)
www.september11news.com (September 11 archived news, timelines, photos, and mysteries.)
http://angelfire.com/la3/ultimate_la/newyork/worldtradecenter.html (The World Trade Center rendered in 3-D computer graphics.)
www.fiddlersgreen.net/WTC/model.htm (Make your own model of the World Trade Center. All you need is a computer printer and some cardstock.)
www.nyctourist.com/topten_empire.htm (Empire State Building Virtual Tour: go from the Art Deco lobby all the way up to the very top, and learn interesting facts about the building’s history.)
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These pages are a continuous work in progress.