BIG unveils replacement for Foster's Two World Trade Center design


BIG has unveiled designs for Two World Trade Center, confirming that the skyscraper's original architect, Foster + Partners, has been ousted (+ slideshow).

BIG's glass-clad tower, consisting of seven stacked cuboids, will occupy a plot at the 16-acre World Trade Center site in Lower Manhattan.

The building's key tenants, 21st Century Fox and News Corp, wanted BIG founder Bjarke Ingels to redesign the tower – reportedly because it felt the 79-storey design by London-based Foster + Partners "was more suited for an investment bank than a modern media company".

Two World Trade Center by BIG

Ingels said the CEO of 21st Century Fox, James Murdoch, told him "he didn't want to build a tower." In response, BIG designed a series of stacked boxes that decrease in size towards the top, rising to a height of 1,340 feet (408 metres).

Two World Trade Center by BIG

The 2.8 million-square-foot building (260,000 square metre) will appear tall and slender while looking up from the World Trade Center Memorial Plaza, but from a distance, its stepped form will be more apparent.

Two World Trade Center by BIG

"The needs and requirements of the media company and other tenants are concentrated into seven separate building volumes, each tailored to their unique activities," said the firm.

"The volumes of varying sizes and depths are stacked on top of each other, from the largest at the base to the smallest towards the top."

Two World Trade Center by BIG

BIG generated the form by stacking volumes based on the vernacular architecture of the neighbouring Tribeca district on top of each other.

"The completion of the World Trade Center will finally restore the majestic skyline of Manhattan and unite the streetscapes of Tribeca with the towers downtown," said Ingels in a video explaining the project (above).

This will create a visual link between the old and new districts where "the heritage city blocks of Tribeca meet the vertical towers of the World Trade Center," Ingels added.

"From Tribeca, it will appear like a vertical village of singular buildings each tailored to their individual activities stacked on top of each other, forming parks and plazas in the sky."

Two World Trade Center by BIG

It becomes the latest in a series of projects made up of stacked cuboid volumes - a form also adopted by SANAA's New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, which was completed in 2007.


Two World Trade Center by BIG

The skyscraper will join two completed towers – One World Trade Center by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, and Four World Trade Center by Fumihiko Maki – along with the under-construction Three World Trade Center, designed by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners. All three are linear towers sheathed in glass.


The BIG-designed tower will have setbacks totalling 38,000 square feet (3,530 square metres), creating terraces that will be "full of lush greenery" and offer expansive views of the city.

The firm described the building's design as a "new hybrid" that merges the Modernist skyscraper with a contemporary interpretation of historic building setbacks.

Two World Trade Center by BIG

The 80-storey office tower will serve as the new headquarters for 21st Century Fox and News Corp, which will occupy the lower half. The upper portion will be leased by Silverstein Properties to commercial tenants.

The building will offer a mix of work spaces, all designed to facilitate collaboration, with the base housing television studios and retail space, along with a lobby that will connect to the World Trade Center Transit Hub designed by Santiago Calatrava.

Two World Trade Center by BIG

"Large stairwells between the floors form cascading, double-height communal spaces throughout the headquarters," BIG said. "These continuous spaces enhance connectivity between different departments and amenities, which may include basketball courts, a running track, a cafeteria and screening rooms."

Two World Trade Center by BIG

The tower is being constructed at 200 Greenwich Street and is bounded by Church, Vesey and Fulton Streets. It is positioned to preserve views of the historic St Paul's Chapel and is aligned along an axis established by the site's masterplanner, architect Daniel Libeskind.

Two World Trade Center by BIG

"The design of 2 WTC is derived from its urban context at the meeting point between two very different neighbourhoods: the Financial District with its modernist skyscrapers and TriBeCa with its lofts and roof gardens," said BIG.

"The design combines the unique qualities of each, melding high-rise with low-rise and modern with historical."

Two World Trade Center by BIG

News Corp and 21st Century Fox signed an initial lease deal with the developers last week, allowing the project to move forward, and hopes to move into the building by 2020.

Two World Trade Center by BIG

Two World Trade Center by BIG

Two World Trade Center by BIG

Two World Trade Center by BIG

Two World Trade Center by BIG

Two World Trade Center by BIG

Two World Trade Center by BIG

  • tom lever

    Another bullsh*t thing. Surely all skyscrapers can’t be so prominent, won’t that just lead to visual chaos?

  • David Bestest

    Looks like they designed it in Powerpoint.

    • ivan.capitani

      Hehehe. Or Illustrator to say the most.

  • Julie

    I felt uncomfortable watching the video. Tacky to the extreme!

    • djnn24

      That was cringe to say the least.

  • Dikkie Smabers

    BIG is the new Zaha Hadid.

    • ivan.capitani

      As if one wasn’t enough.

      • Sorry I can’t like your comment more!

    • BeggarBoy

      Zaha Hadid with corners. Ugh.

  • james

    is it just me or are BIG’s diagrams becoming more and more exercises in post rationalization?

  • ODB

    Uggh, have to say really tired of this guy and his OMA-lite approach to architecture. Compliments on their success, but wish he had never invaded the US. Waiting for the big backlash, can’t come soon enough. On a positive note, big ups on not twisting this tower!

  • Guest

    When you’re a hot architectural name today the world wants you, evidenced by the same faces appearing week after week on these pages. But how many clients stop to think how stretched their architect is, with so much pressing work to handle? If I was commissioning for a major project I’d want that project to be my architect’s main, ideally only, priority; to know that he’d not be fitting me in with five or six other commissions.

    • guisforyou

      To further your point… how about a list of all the people (in the office and out) actually responsible for working on these projects and making them happen? Autopilot is rampant, unchecked and a shortsighted demise for many.

  • bonsaiman

    Stacked boxes are all the rage this week.

  • Jj

    Looks very OMA.

    • Abdel-Monem Assem Refaat

      Isn’t it copy paste?

  • Sam

    The terraces are really lovely.

  • ivan.capitani

    Here comes BIG’s first example of new vernacular architecture. He said he would do it and here it is folks.
    If only Bernard Rudofsky knew. Now you bashers, I know what you are thinking…

    • Andy L.

      Instead of architecture without architects we are getting architects without architecture. Great progress.

    • flytoget

      Here’s what he said about his “vernacular”. “The international style of Modernism came with the advent of building services. In the end, the architecture became like a container space, essentially like a boring box with a basement full of machinery to make it inhabitable,” he said. “As a result, buildings literally started to look identical all over the planet.”

      I clearly see seven boring boxes in this building.

      • ivan.capitani

        I too see seven boring boxes here. Just to clarify, mine was an ironic statement. This is a boring building to say the least, and it’s definitely not a vernacular architecture. B. Rudofsky must be turning over in his grave.

        You can clearly tell that the amount of thinking behind this project is very small. It’s all eye candy renders and nothing else.

        • AB

          I can’t even see the eye-candy render. What a missed opportunity for him.

    • Vertical does not vernacular make.

  • Stu Sherman

    Oh Cool. They have a video with the host of the German talk show Sprockets to take us on a tour of the new building.

  • blah

    “Vertical village” is as cringeworthy as “Horizontal Skyscraper”. Thanks for all the diagrams that don’t make any sense.

  • Bark Inside

    Finally they have designed a fugly building. At least we know he’s human.

  • T,.T

    Here’s a BIG gift to Foster’s 80th birthday this year!

  • Alex

    I am just amused by the incredible laziness, which this design proposal currently represents.The BIG recipe: “take any boring Foster’s simple glass box, cut it a couple of times and then shift the pieces – voila!”

    I am not trying to be mean but, seriously, in the cutting age of Parametricism, BIG can only offer to people this, making us all believe that it takes origins from existing urban fabric? Bjarke managed to fool public once with triangular garden tower, but it doesn’t mean that New York folks should buy this “botch” and let this be built.

    • Adriana

      What you are basically saying is that anything that is not designed with Parametricism is lazy. Couldn’t it also be true that parametric projects are rarely constructable? PS, from the looks of New York, it can also be argued that the people of New York buy into these sort of ‘botches’ all the time.

      • Ralph Kent

        My gut feeling is that parametricism is one of the most misused words in design. People associate it with the spline curve designs of, Zaha Hadid, say, without really stopping to think about the entomology of the word.

        If properly employed, parametric architecture should respond to the *meaningful* parameters of the site, client, context, users, etc… (and not just a desire to make a cool-looking shape, Patrik). Somewhere along the line, the world decided that parametricism is just shorthand for arbitrary curvy forms.

  • bvda

    Just what the city needs, News Corp beaming their headlines down to the ignorant plebs from oppressive overhangs that make it look like one tower is falling into another. Great symbolism.

    Well the main thing I took from this is that it’s no longer acceptable to propose “vertical village” as a concept without sounding incredibly banal any more.

  • This is a brilliant design from the perspective that it will never see the light of day. The economy or better taste will strike it down while BIG makes a play at the WTC site.

  • P

    BIG failure for the NYC-grid or in other words, Dubai chaos has arrived in NYC.

  • Jon Hellier

    Ugly as sin. This will ruin the entire lower Manhattan skyline from certain angles.

  • Chris MacDonald

    That hurts my eyes. I love BIG’s style for diagrammatically approaching design and tackling the obvious problems up front, but I really don’t think it has worked here at all.

    What also doesn’t help is that Squint Opera also seem to have dropped the ball on this one. That animation is way below par for them; it starts well and then enters into a world of strangely low contrast green-screen people in sub-par renders.

    It’s almost as if they’ve just bought a new greenscreen/studio and wanted to get as much use out of it as possible in every shot – hardly any focus on the building except for in nausea-inducing shots that pan too fast to take anything in.

  • marcos

    Too similar to a not-so-old project by OMA:

    • Thomas

      It’s not similar at all. You spent all day looking for a similar project, and that’s the best you could come up with?! Try again!

      • endofdays

        You’re right, it’s not similar at all. OMA’s design is far braver and much more interesting.

  • Bart

    Terrible design. Imagine what this looks like from the Empire State Building point of view (only viewpoint they’re not showing). It will look bad and destroys the sleek lines of the lower Manhattan skyline.

  • RichardDP

    I’m thinking Dredd… I’m thinking Block Wars.

  • flytoget

    Foster is looking at this and laughing his heart out.

  • Abdel-Monem Assem Refaat

    Mmm… Foster wins!

  • Keith Dougal

    I kind of like it. Simple diagrams, clear contextual reference and just enough ‘difference’ to stand the test of time and not look too wacky. Ballsy move by the client too.

  • stutelf

    Makes me want to look at pictures of the New Museum of Contemporary Art.

  • Timk

    Academic, yet completely superficial. Lacking any elegance whatsoever.

  • Ben Carter

    Can architects just get out of this whole notion of ‘vertical villages’ when designing skyscrapers. Also, if you don’t want to build a tower Murdoch, then don’t…


    … from the message boards FOX news will broadcast messages of our impending doom. It’s so contextual. Look how it blends elegantly into the surroundings.

  • I liked the original design a LOT better.

    • nyKer

      You would, old timer…

      • Jaun Meyer

        Rude. At least he has taste.

    • Chicago already did it.

  • guisforyou

    Who dares to say that this building is not part of NYC’s vernacular style?

    • Guest

      Anyone at all.

  • Christian Høirup

    It’s entertaining to read all these ever so negative comments on the newest BIG project. Wonder if any of the commentators are capable of doing better?
    Being an old time architect, I find this project treading exciting new paths, introducing “parks in the high rise”. That one idea alone lifts the BIG proposal to be applauded.

    • cho cho

      Ah the old “can the commenters do any better?” canard as a way to stop negative comments. It never gets old, or shall we say “old time.”

      • Aaron Williamson

        I think he’s just referring to people that just come in and slander projects without having achieved any success in their own endeavours. I for one am sick of reading people’s snarky comments about Zaha Hadid, Norman Forster, BIG or whoever.

        Do you think they got to where they are today by sitting on the couch playing tiddlywinks? Dismissing a high-profile project from a place of insecurity, or should I say “the old dismissing a high-profile project to compensate one’s own insecurities”.

        • spartanladkenny

          Oh shut up. Architects have always been scrutinised for their work. BIG has done some exciting work but this is just lazy. It is one of those things that architects excel at – design the building and then refer to the dictionary to come up with explicit descriptions of the process and what not to make it seem like every inch of the project developed out of a deep design philosophy and the ones who don’t appreciate it “just don’t get it”.

        • Dr Scrubbington

          Just because they’ve done more than us and have more money than us doesn’t mean we can’t criticise their work. If you or they can’t take criticism, then toughen up and stop acting like they’re some sort of higher power. Architecture is art, and art is always open to criticism whether you like it or not.

    • guisforyou

      A few pavers and grass is a PARK? Wow, it would have sucked to be your kid… worse still, your pet!

    • Jaun Meyer

      I like gardens in the sky as much as anyone else. But this building has no gravitas. It’s boring and not distinctive at all. This building should be an icon. I think the previous design would have complimented its boxy neighbours.

  • chris

    It’s all gimmickry and it’s all Fox’s fault.

  • Bob Terry

    Stairway to heaven.

  • Sarosh Anklesaria

    BIG is just BAD!

  • Paul Lynn

    Looks like something my 8-year-old son has created in Minecraft.

  • spadestick

    Although I don’t generally like BIG and all the fancy-schmancy diagrams, I actually like the design… and the video was really pretty outstanding. Great teamwork on producing it. I still think, though, that he sounds like a young Schwarzenegger.

  • Jojon

    It’s coming true… Godzilla is invading New York.

  • Kay

    Stop killing beautiful Manhattan with crap projects that future generations will long despise us for. All these “bold” megalomaniac approaches to tall buildings needs to stop and for once look at the macro level. Having such horridness next to beautiful 1 Wall Street, and the tasteful 70 Pine Street is a crime.

  • Transparent wedding-cake architecture falls flat.

  • Guest

    The BIG design of Tower 2 just unveiled looks like a giant bungling Godzilla trying to devour the WTC site! It is so out of place with the other WTC buildings that I have to wonder if this is just All-Qaida’s new clever idea of destroying the beauty of the WTC site and NYC skyline forever.

  • Dave

    A five-year-old with Legos would’ve come up with a better design.

  • vonNexus

    They have got to be kidding. The new step design SUCKS. NYC must wait 20 years for the second tower and they come up with this moronic design. From the get go, they should have made an identical tower, minus the antenna, which will restore twin towers to lower Manhattan’s anaemic skyline.

    New Yorkers voted they wanted the towers rebuilt a decade ago. They already have the blueprint to One WTC, so they can start immediately. If we had to go with an alternate design, the diamond-top building is much better than this ridiculous step tower.

  • Jaun Meyer

    Yes yes yes. It’s ugly. Period.

  • Liyat

    Simplistic but interesting! Definitely much more so than WTC1! Not sure there is integrity in the idea of stacking brownstones because there is a lot more to them than just the size and form (the way the ground floor functions with the street for instance).

    So just taking the “boxity” of them is kind of simplistic or “lazy” as someone commented below. And still, this is one of the team’s more decent projects, which too often feel massive for their environments. I guess nothing is too massive for Manhattan…

  • spartanladkenny

    The majority of people who frequent this website are designers. Designers usually never agree on anything and there’s always a mix of positive and negative reviews. But when you see such a lop-sided review, it shows rejection of the proposal.

    BIG likes to stretch the boundaries of design but this proposal looks like one of those assignments I did in architecture school when I spent the majority of the time drinking and realised I’m two days away from my presentation. So you put together some sketches and then spend a lot of time writing up the “concept”. If any one disagrees with the design, I can just call them stupid.

  • agagnu

    This will be a fine building, it does not get so uptight like Frank Gehry. It reinterprets the much-used sky garden to integrate the form and the scales of the traditional neighbourhood.

    • Dr Scrubbington

      The terraces don’t make up for how fugly the rest of the building looks. BIG tried too hard to make it fit in with both the postmodern New WTC and the old buildings of Tribeca at the same time. But it just makes the whole thing seemed forced… Well, it is forced, as the only reason they did this was for the stupid media companies who don’t even want to be in this tower anymore.

      Why try to make it look like the buildings that already exist when this is the start of NYC’s new future of architecture? I say build Norman Foster’s design, which looks very stunning and elegant. Way more so than BIG’s glorified stack of boxes. That diamond-shaped crown at the top has a lot more meaning behind it than you would think, all while looking like a bright crystal in the skyline. It would serve as an amazing beacon for those coming to the US from around the world, and even people from other states.

      There’s plenty good reasons to build Lord Foster’s design over BIG’s. They already have the foundation down, so it would cost more time and money to demolish it just so they could build BIG’s; it’s far more accepted by the general public; and even if the tenants kept their decision to move there, they wouldn’t stay there forever. New tenants would come in and the BIG design might not be useful anymore, and then we’re going to ask ourselves why we even bothered building it. If they had brains, they would definitely make the right choice and go with the original design by Foster + Partners. The positives of his tower really outweigh the positives of BIG’s.