Arts, OldVenue

Arts politics: New York’s One World Trade Center

One World Trade Center – David Jones.

The Statue of Liberty represents Jefferson’s doctrine that “all men are born equal”; the Empire State Building symbolises America’s strength in times of depression; the Twin Towers suggested global power.

Reaching heights of 1,271 feet, however, America’s Freedom Tower reminds us of Osama bin Laden’s death this time last year, and of America’s long struggle for freedom from the traumas of 9/11.

When finished the building will be 1,776 feet high, becoming the highest in the US, and honouring the Declaration of Independence with its reminder of the year of 1776.

This month, the Freedom Tower became the tallest building in New York’s skyline since the twin towers were destroyed in the 9/11 attacks, but what does its height symbolise? Architecturally, the beautiful One World Trade Centre will represent a unity and harmony which Manhattan has long since missed.

The completion of the building will evoke rebirth throughout the city, and yet the death of Osama Bin Laden lurks beneath the surface of any closure available to America.

How can a building, or indeed any art form, express the rebirth of a broken nation, whilst honouring those who died in the attacks? How can a tower built on the ground of its predecessor symbolise freedom, without also reminding America of terrorism?

An inability to communicate a national trauma whilst expressing patriotism is a tension seen throughout many post 9/11 art forms, but a problem the Freedom Tower refuses to accept.

Repressing the controversy over its dangerous and contentious height, the colossal structure will dominate the skyline of Manhattan and despite the recent history it connotes, the architectural achievement also reminds us of the same relentless energy which brought America its independence, and built its citizens their new nation, all those years ago.


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harrietfarnham Harriet is the editor of Arts. Email her at

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December 2021
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