World Financial Center

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New York, New York, USA
826,800 square meters / 8.9 million square feet

Completed in 1988, the World Financial Center is a familiar presence on the New York City skyline, the four stepped towers forming the western wall of Lower Manhattan. While the architecture is unmistakably modern in detail and construction, the buildings reference architectural history, expanding the possibilities for skyscraper design and expressing the aspirations of the contemporary city.

The World Financial Center was the first installment of Battery Park City, a mixed-use development built on fill from the construction of the World Trade Center. The 5.6-hectare (14-acre) complex consists of four office towers, ranging in height from 34 to 51 stories; the Winter Garden, a glass-roofed public court; two nine-story octagonal gateway buildings; and a landscaped public plaza and small marina.

Flanking Liberty Street, the two octagonal buildings mark a formal entrance to the Center and the waterfront Plaza beyond. Tower 1 rises to the south, while the other three are arrayed to the north and west. A four-story granite base provides a comfortable transition from the street, flowing under each tower with a lively assortment of public spaces, shops and restaurants. The center of gravity is the Winter Garden, an arching glass hall complete with a grove of Arizona palm trees. This public room hosts concerts, exhibitions, and large lunchtime and after-work crowds.

The four towers were composed to give a formal context to the World Trade Center, softening the height of the Twin Towers by surrounding and stepping up toward them. Each tower of the World Financial Center was given a copper top: a pyramid, a stepped pyramid, a mastaba, and a dome. These allusions to ancient civilizations provided a historical counterpoint to the futuristic twin towers, as did the square punched windows. As the buildings rise and step back, the ratio of glass to granite increases, taking advantage of modern construction methods to let in light and provide generous views.

The World Financial Center has received numerous awards, including a Design Award from the Society of American Registered Architects in 1990. The following year, the American Institute of Architects cited the World Financial Center and Winter Garden as one of the 10 best works of the decade. In 1993, the AIA/ACSA Council on Architectural Research, the International Union of Architects and the DuPont Company named the Winter Garden a Merit Finalist in the Benedictus Awards competition.