After that, things became complicated, with staunch opposition from Mayor Robert F. Wagner of New York City, who was miffed because he had not been properly consulted, and from the occupants of the more than 150 buildings in the area, mostly small shops and businesses, buildings that were going to be razed so that the World Trade Center buildings could be erected on the site.
But the project went forward. Minoru Yamasaki was appointed as the architect, to be assisted by the Emery Roth & Sons architectural firm. The Yamasaki firm would design the exterior concepts and models, while the Roth firm—long a mainstay of commercial developers in the city—would
Tishman Construction served as Manager for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey for the original World Trade Center towers. do all the interior layouts, detailed drawings, and construction documents. Yamasaki was the hot architect of the moment, having recently shot to prominence with designs for a synagogue in suburban Chicago, the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, a building at Harvard, and a skyscraper in Detroit. Before the architects and designers became involved, the site had to be readied, and the PA undertook to solve its inherent problems. The western part, nearest the Hudson River, was saturated with water beneath the surface, since much of it had been filled with various junk and excavated material that had been taken from all over Manhattan, through the centuries, as the island had become more and more developed. A “bathtub” needed to be created to keep out the groundwater and to provide a firm foundation. The tub walls were formed and poured in 152 sections covering about four square blocks, an enormous area. The material taken out to create “the tub,” about a million cubic yards, was then used as fill to help create twenty-eight acres of land in the Hudson River, adjacent to the site, on which Battery Park City and the World Financial Center were later erected. After the proposed WTC site had thus been cleared of water, design and construction could begin—and that’s when we got involved.
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The PA decided to build the Towers and the surrounding buildings in phases, and to first award a contract only for the preconstruction phase of the towers. The designs and such were submitted for evaluation and critique to four firms, the Fuller and Turner construction firms, the Morse/Diesel firm, and us. Of these firms, Morse/Diesel was the most like us—a company that built for its own developing arm and also for other owners—while the Fuller and Turner firms were straight general contractors. As it happened, Fuller and Turner, the two largest GC firms in the country, had friends among the PA’s commissioners, some of whom were heads of banks and corporations who had hired those firms in the past. The plans for the towers were still fairly preliminary, so we had an opportunity to critique the design assumptions of the planning, and did so from an owner’s perspective. There were to be two square, 100-story buildings, each with floors about one acre in size—a structure quite different from the Hancock’s tapered shape.
We made several key suggestions. The first and perhaps the most important was to recommend changing the location of the air-conditioning equipment and related mechanical systems. Yamasaki and
Roth had placed these at the top of each tower. From our perspective, derived not only from our experience with the Hancock Center but from the office buildings we had built and operated for ourselves, placing the equipment on top of the buildings would be economically disastrous, as it would require each tower to be “topped off” before the boilers and air conditioning equipment could even start to be installed. Doing the mechanicals in that sequence would delay tenant occupancies by as much as a year—a year during which the Port Authority would be denied rental income. However, by alternately placing the basic mechanical equipment, consisting of massive chillers and boilers, at the bottom of the towers, it would be possible to have those systems up and running long before we topped off the building, which would make occupancy of some lower office spaces possible even before completion of all the upper floors. This change would provide the PA with tens of millions of dollars in early rental income.