Get on the elevator to the observatorium at 1 World Trade Center and you’re in for the ride of your life. Up, up, up – ascending not just through space but through time. An animated display on the walls of the elevator shows, as if through windows in one of the doomed WTC towers, how Lower Manhattan looked from early settlement days through today. At a certain late point you can briefly see the edge of the other poor WTC tower, and a momentary shiver goes up your spine.
Above, I have “freeze-framed” Manhattan at 1950, before modern architecture really began to transform a beautiful city into merely an imposing city. Of course, you can stop the video at any point you like.
After the ascent through time and space are video ads you might find interesting. The Times story accompanying the video, “On Time-Lapse Rocket Ride to Trade Center’s Top, Glimpse of Doomed Tower,” is by David Dunlop. The show will actually not begin in the elevators to the building’s observatory until tomorrow. Here is how Dunlop describes the experience:
At first, one feels enclosed in bedrock. The year is 1500 and the elevator is 55 feet below ground. As it rises, time advances. The cab seems to head skyward from an offshore marsh, a reminder that the trade center site was originally underwater.
A peaceful riverfront settlement is then seen, just before the Europeans arrive. Soon enough, the still verdant island is dotted with the steep, crow-stepped gables of New Amsterdam, as windmill vanes poke up over the treetops.
Just after the cab passes the 250-foot mark in the 1760s, during the British colonial era, St. Paul’s Chapel rises splendidly on the eastern horizon, occupying the same site it does today.
Prominent landmarks of the 19th and early 20th centuries come and go: the behemoth of a Post Office in City Hall Park; the Astor House hotel across Broadway; the spiky New York Tribune and domed New York World buildings along Newspaper Row; the Hudson Terminal buildings that preceded the trade center.
Height records are made and broken by a succession of “tallest” towers: the Park Row Building, the Singer Building, the Woolworth Building and the original trade center.
Then, the steel framework of the new 1 World Trade Center seems to assemble itself around the cab before visitors once again find themselves within an enclosed space — this time, an elevator shaft.
Hats off to the 1 WTC team for thinking this up, to the New York Times for putting this video online, and to Kristen Richards of ArchNewsNow.com for putting it on her crucial blog of international architecture news.