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World Trade Center Architecture
Ground Floor Photo ^ | John Jamieson

Posted on 10/13/2001 9:21:55 PM PDT by John Jamieson

I don't believe I've ever seen a discussion of the architecture of the World Trade Center. From a distance, the WTC looks like two simple towers, but up close, at street level, I think it looked kind of Islamic. I was struct by how much even the ruins of the facade looked like scenes of recent architecural elements shown on TV, in Pakistan. bin Laden hates us for many reasons, but did he have extra hate for this building? See link for photo.


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1 posted on 10/13/2001 9:21:55 PM PDT by John Jamieson
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To: John Jamieson
Will the replacement buildings be of similar detail?
2 posted on 10/13/2001 9:24:17 PM PDT by John Jamieson
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To: John Jamieson
The pointed arch is a Gothic, and therefore Western, motif. I'm an architect by the way.
3 posted on 10/13/2001 9:30:12 PM PDT by solon_where_r_u
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To: solon_where_r_u
You don't see any Islamic influence at all?
4 posted on 10/13/2001 9:32:56 PM PDT by John Jamieson
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To: John Jamieson
It's slightly ominous...the WTC did in fact have a somewhat Islamic facade. I don't think that inspired the terrorists, however. If you want to break out the tinfoil for this post, that would be acceptable...but Mike Luckovich did a cartoon after the tragedy (which appeared in Newsweek) which showed the planes hitting a tall "Holy Quran," not the WTC. I don't think it would be inappropriate to say that the terrorists more or less set Islam back many years, and may actually have ended it (in its current form) as a "true religion/philosophy."
5 posted on 10/13/2001 9:38:00 PM PDT by gopgen
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To: John Jamieson
On Wednesday evening the A & E channel will have a special on the twin towers. I assume it will show from it's conception to it completion. It should be interesting
6 posted on 10/13/2001 9:39:00 PM PDT by shadeaud
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To: shadeaud
I won't miss it. I was last there in about '95 and I thought it was great.
7 posted on 10/13/2001 9:41:07 PM PDT by John Jamieson
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To: solon_where_r_u
I read an article about the WTC architect (I think it was in the WSJ last week) and he lamented the many "classic failures". Now, in seeing those many steel columns reinforcing the exterior, I am more amazed than ever that it would collapse--and so quickly, at that.

Didn't any structural engineers ever foresee the possible problems and risks that these structures presented?

8 posted on 10/13/2001 9:41:21 PM PDT by MHT
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To: MHT
Didn't any structural engineers ever foresee the possible problems and risks that these structures presented?

What risk was that? These buildings took a direct hit from airliners weighing 450,000 pounds, going 500 miles per hour. At impact, this exerted a force of 632 million ft-lbs at the 70th floor. Neither building snapped at the bottom or even swayed.

What brought the buildings down was fire, primarily caused by the jet fuel. The melting point of steel is about 1600 degrees C. The flame temperature of kerosene (jet fuel) is 1700 degrees C. No steel structure of any kind could have withstood a fire fueled by 24,000 gallons of jet fuel. That they stood as long as they did, giving time for thousands of people to escape, tells us that these buildings were strong indeed. When they failed, they failed exactly the way they were supposed to... straight down. Can you imagine the death toll if buildings that size had fallen over sideways, crashing into other buildings on the way down?

The architect and the structural engineers deserve a round of applause, not approbation.

9 posted on 10/13/2001 10:00:50 PM PDT by Nick Danger
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To: Nick Danger
Oops. approbation = disapprobation.
11 posted on 10/13/2001 10:02:27 PM PDT by Nick Danger
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To: Nick Danger
Here is the address of a site with an interesting engineering discussion of the WTC, its design, construction and its fall. Go to http://www.civil.usyd.edu.au/wtc.htm.
14 posted on 10/13/2001 10:18:10 PM PDT by 2Fro
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To: laconas
It would seem the terrorist planners at least had a belief they might bring the buildings down.
15 posted on 10/13/2001 10:23:27 PM PDT by nolu chan
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To: John Jamieson
I don't think there's anything Islamic about the design. If you look at the top of the photo, you'll see that the structural columns are very close together (I think they were only 33 inches apart). The buildings could not be designed with those columns all the way up, since the space would not accommodate doors or anything of that sort at ground level. As a result, at the bottom of the buildings they had to tie these columns in "bundles" of three on top of larger columns spaced further apart.
16 posted on 10/13/2001 10:36:55 PM PDT by Alberta's Child
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To: solon_where_r_u
Eastern architecture is full of pointed arches. It's worth noting that the pointed arch doesn't appear in Western architecture till around 1130, not long after the first Crusade.
17 posted on 10/13/2001 10:53:21 PM PDT by Romulus
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To: MHT
Now, in seeing those many steel columns reinforcing the exterior, I am more amazed than ever that it would collapse--and so quickly, at that.

Didn't any structural engineers ever foresee the possible problems and risks that these structures presented?

Had the planes crashed into buildings of more 'conventional' construction, large parts of the buildings would have collapsed within seconds. The remainder would have collapsed within minutes.

Although buildings in this country are constructed with reasonable engineering margins, in many structures the loss of even one structural element can cause severe damage. One big reason for this is that the strength of a beam required to bridge a span is proportional to the square of the span's length. If the span doubles in length, the beam must be four times as strong. If you have a row of pillars at 20' spacing, loss of even a single pillar will mean that two 20' spans have been replaced by a 40' span. Unless the beams had a four-fold engineering margin, they will not hold.

Actually, the situation is even worse than that, since the failure of the bottom of a pillar will mean that the remainder of the column, which the beams used not to support at all, will now be supported in the center of the beams, which is their worst-case spot. Not good at all.

As though that weren't bad enough, many buildings use either reinforced-concrete or steel-truss structures which are designed only to be supported by columns, and not to support them. If a column fails, these structures will have almost zero strength to support their own weight, much less that of anything above them.

Really, that the WTC was able to survive the impacts structurally was quite remarkable. While they were not able to withstand 20,000lb of jet fuel, I doubt that any 300+-foot-tall structure built in the last 1000 years could do any better.

19 posted on 10/13/2001 11:42:05 PM PDT by supercat
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To: solon_where_r_u
The interior of the mosque at Cordoba ( 8th century) is a continuous arcade - all round arches. The Alhambra ( 12th C) has tons of pointy arches in the tracery and lacework. The arch was actually discovered by the Etruscans and put to work by the Romans (Coliseum). It was lost, along with the recipe for concrete, during the dark ages. It was rediscovered in principle with the bays of late Romanesque and put to work in French and northern Gothic.

The arch is a Western invention, but the Islamic nations also used it. Islamic art relies heavily on patterns from nature- the natural arches of trees are one such example. Hope this helps.

20 posted on 10/14/2001 12:41:05 AM PDT by ItCanHappenToYou
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To: ItCanHappenToYou
Forgot to add that the arch is ubiquitous in architecture because it adds great strength and decreases weight of walls.
21 posted on 10/14/2001 12:45:30 AM PDT by ItCanHappenToYou
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To: laconas
I just can't see how they could believe that [attacks by plane would bring the Towers down.]

I can. There are basically two possibilities: that the terrorists were oblivious to the structural engineering aspects of this or that they were very well-informed about them.

If it's the former, they probably thought the WTC was no different than any run-of-the-mill building, except that it was a lot taller. And as supercat has said, most buildings would have fallen apart almost immediately from such an impact. So, if anything, they were probably surprised it took so long for them to come down.

If it's the latter, then they knew all about the WTC's structural integrity, and what it would take to bring it down. Thus they specifically chose those cross-country flights because those planes had fuel tanks filled to the brim. More fuel = a bigger, hotter fire = higher possibility of getting the steel to buckle.

23 posted on 10/14/2001 1:00:50 AM PDT by Timesink
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To: nolu chan
It would seem the terrorist planners at least had a belief they might bring the buildings down.

My intuition is the terrorist planners expected a big crash and many killed, but not the complete collapse of both towers. The collapse of both towers has effectively started a War on Terrorism, of a magnitude they probably didn't expect.

Maybe I'm wrong. But I somehow feel the unintended consequence of the attack, will be a big blow to Islam. This religion has a lot of ground to make up. It is now tied to this event, and will be suspect for a very long time. What goes around, comes around.

Or in other words, that which they meant to advance, was set back.

24 posted on 10/14/2001 1:01:12 AM PDT by truth_seeker
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To: laconas
Of course now, after the fact, every engineer has an explanation and many claim to have known this would happen. I don't buy it

Not every engineer. I didn't think they would come down, of course, no one that wasn't there on the fire floors could know that the sprinkler systems were destoyed by the force of the explosions.

The fireproofing was also compromised by the explosions.

As far as the steel being destroyed by the jet fuel, the fuel burned itself out long before the towers collapsed, the rest of the flammable material was what continued to burn.

It was the lousy fireproofing of the steel, a new process long since discontinued to replace asbestos insulation, which was the primary reason the towers collapsed.

The steel would not have melted so quickly if it was fireproofed in accordance with todays standards.The fire could have been conceivably fought if there had been enough time.The fireproofing was supposed to last 3-4 hours.

The smoke evacuation systems in the stairwells were destroyed as well.

The buidings were designed to withstand fire, not massive explosions that blew out the fire protection systems.

25 posted on 10/14/2001 1:01:52 AM PDT by Rome2000
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To: ItCanHappenToYou
Huh, the arches on the WTC are not structural, but decorative. Main structure is 18" square tubes on 40" centers, with 22" wide windows.
27 posted on 10/14/2001 2:07:47 AM PDT by John Jamieson
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To: Rome2000
Actually there are engineers who now believe that the fire supression system in the north tower, the first to be hit, was working perfectly. I was listening to a couple guys on TV discussing how the water mains for the towers were tied together, and how that one minor design problem may have destroyed the towers. Apparently, the builders of the tower never envisioned a scenario where both towers contained raging fires, so there was neither sufficient capacity or pressure to run the fire sprinklers on multiple floors in both towers simultaneously. After the north tower was hit, fire was burning in about 15 different floors...which was about all the WTC fire system was capable of handling. They noted that the fire did NOT appear to be spreading at that time, and that there was evidence of steam coming from the burning floors which indicated that the system was at least partially functioning.

The towers fate was sealed when the second jet hit the second tower. There wasn't enough capacity or pressure to spray another 15-20 burning floors in the second tower, so when those systems activated, both towers lost water pressure. This is evidenced by the fact that the fire in the north tower began spreading almost immediately after the other tower was hit, and the fact that the steam plumes stopped showing up in the photos and videos.
28 posted on 10/14/2001 2:37:27 AM PDT by Arthalion
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To: laconas
B) If the terrorists goal was to bring the buildings down, they would have dived steeper into a lower part of the building, and not such straight on attack. The best they could have hoped by the angle they hit would have thousands dead, but not the collapse of the buildings.

Actually, that would have been rather dumb of them. Like any tall building, the lower you went in the WTC towers, the more load each floor was carrying. Because the lower floors of the WTC carried the load of all the floors above them, they contained quite a bit more structural reinforcement and would have been harder to damage. Osama learned this lesson in the early 90's when he detonated that bomb in the basement...which carried ALL the weight of the building. He discovered then that the lower and heavier parts of the building were nearly impossible to breach, even with high powered explosives. Since the structure of the WTC became progressively lighter as you traveled up through the towers, the upper floors would have obviously been the better target to exact maximum damage.

Interestingly, we're actually rather lucky that the tower WAS hit high. A collapse of that type occuring lower in the buildings could have caused them to fall over like trees, which would have resulted in a MUCH higher number of fatalities.

C) The terrorists strategy was not as sophisticated as it is made out to be. In DC for example, they hit the Pentagon and it does not appear they gave much thought regarding the maximum damage a plane could do crashing into the Pentagon. It was very bad, but it could have been worse if they had more knowledge regarding structure. Whereas, in NYC they got very lucky.

We're fairly certain (based on evidence the pilots left behind) that the Pentagon wasn't the target, the White House was. The White House, surrounded by tall trees and buildings, is a hard target to hit which may have caused the pilot to pick a second target himself. Since he was already in line with the Pentagon and it's such a large, easy target to hit, it may have just been selected by default.

I also wouldn't assume that Osama didn't understand the nature fo the buildings he was hitting. He'd hit them before, and when he failed, he swore he'd hit them again. He spent MANY years planning this attack, and you can be certain that he reviewed it's publically available blueprints and building plans at some point in his planning. He knew EXACTLY what he was doing.
29 posted on 10/14/2001 2:57:50 AM PDT by Arthalion
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To: Arthalion
I don't know about the accuracy of that report.

From what I remember, each tower supposedly had gravity tanks on the top for supressing fires on the upper floors, as pumping water from the ground floor under any circumstances would not constitute a reliable fire protection system.

Each building would have had separate fire pumps to service the lower to mid tower floors, and they should have not been affected by the initial attack.

I understand that NFPA has prepared a preliminary report on the incident but for some strange reason it has been deleted from their website, probably for security reasons.

30 posted on 10/14/2001 8:08:06 AM PDT by Rome2000
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To: laconas
Can you give me the name of a structure in Egypt to look at? I thought the Egyptian temples were hypostyle halls with tiny interior rooms for sacrifice to the gods. The rooms were only large enough to accomodate the priest. With the advent of the arch in Rome, larger interior spaces became possible, allowing larger groups of people to congregate.

Hagia Sophia was a Byzantine cathedral before it was a mosque. The air and light of Hagia Sophia ia a function of the massive dome and the windows in the base of the dome. Hagia Sophia was built in the 5th C; still the pendentives and arches that make it possible were discovered centuries before. The circular design is reminiscent of the Panthenon, with its many entrances and domed center. This structure can not escape its Western roots. JMO, of course. ;-D

31 posted on 10/14/2001 3:30:52 PM PDT by ItCanHappenToYou
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To: John Jamieson
The arches may be more decorative than structural in the WTC, but they certainly don't hurt the building's strength. The ubiquitness of the arch that I mentioned refers to buildings made before the advent of the steel beam and glass skin construction of modern skyscrapers.
32 posted on 10/14/2001 5:07:13 PM PDT by ItCanHappenToYou
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To: laconas
OK, I stopped relying on what I remembered and looked it up, (OK, hastily, so this may not be the definitive word.) The first reference I found was to barrel vaults 2500 BC in the palace of an Assyrian king, Sargon II. I also found a picture of the Ishtar Gate, from Babylon, about 575 BC. So that places the arch/vault much earlier than I remembered, and from the Fertile Crescent area.

I looked and looked for vaults in Egypt and did find post and lintel vaults, but those are obviously not arches.

Maybe you can refresh my memory. Was it Sumeria that had those underground, vaulted, burial chambers?

35 posted on 10/14/2001 6:46:33 PM PDT by ItCanHappenToYou
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To: overseer5
Thank you. My husband, whose degrees are in business and history, said a few minutes after the hits that those buildings were going to come down because the steel would melt. If he could figure it out, did not the on site authorities have the same discussion we had?
38 posted on 10/14/2001 7:37:39 PM PDT by pbear8
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To: laconas
Mycenea. I should have known. "Tholos" -- beehive burial vaults.

Here's a Link

40 posted on 10/14/2001 8:07:45 PM PDT by ItCanHappenToYou
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To: laconas
Of course! The mask and those two gorgeous cups! Pounded into me in art history 101. Well, I guessed it worked - I remembered , sort of. Thanks fr the link!

So, what can we say about the arch and its origin? Seems to me its not really attributable to one culture or another. It's more of an architectural inevitability, given the building materials of early times, and has been discovered and rediscovered, semingly independently, in different cultures and at different times.

44 posted on 10/14/2001 9:58:34 PM PDT by ItCanHappenToYou
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To: laconas
The Romans get my vote for a lot of things, engineering among them. The roads, the aqueducts, the buildings that still stand, the basics of architecture still in use today. Agree that the Romans pushed it to the limit with concrete and the arch - the Coliseum, obviously.

It's very difficult to argue that the Greeks didn't perfect the column - of course they did. I suppose you could argue the relative perfection of each order, as the canons changed, but that would be subjective and really off topic, I think.

Monumental structures of the 21st century? What a tantalizing subject! Buildings made of RTV, Corten and crushed safety glass? Decorated with holograms of the great documents of art history?

A serious thought: I think we ought to consider going down into the earth than building upon it.

48 posted on 10/14/2001 11:27:34 PM PDT by ItCanHappenToYou
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To: laconas
For sure it's going to be debate, and the powers that be will decide the debate not by good taste, but because they are in position to dictate taste.

And, as you suggest a little further down in your post, TPTB are as vulnerable to primal fears as anyone else. Fear dictating taste? Perhaps.

But, as you said, we might shift to a new Dark Age mentality and hunker down, and our monuments might reflect that. Fortresses and bunkers.

Actually I was thinking about the zeitgeist of the 21st century. The 20th was dominated by the phallus; The Eiffel Tower, the skyscrapers, Freud. My idea was that perhaps the 21st would be dominated by the oomphalos, the attachment to the mother. Or perhaps you are correct; and all this has made me want to assume a fetal position!! ; Perfectly understandable.

All through architectural history we have had our ups and downs, depending on our overall outlook. At this moment, a sense of security appears to be the prevailing idea that will influence the new style

What can you foresee? I rather like the idea of rubber buildings fortified with crushed glass myself.

50 posted on 10/15/2001 12:12:32 AM PDT by ItCanHappenToYou
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