Shortly after the building opened, Chris Rock joked in his "Saturday Night Live" monologue, "They should change the name from the Freedom Tower to the Never Going in There Tower 'cause I'm never going in there."
But architect David Childs built safety into the core of One World Trade — literally. The tower's signature feature is its unique concrete core, which extends from a 185-foot-tall fortress-like pedestal all the way to the top of the building.
Author and historian Judith Dupre, who followed the rebuilding for years, considers the use of the concrete core to be a technological leap forward. "Because of various union issues in New York City, concrete cores weren't used very much,"she said. "But after 9/11, it was so important to have the most secure building possible that they sat down with the heads of the unions and said, 'Guys, we have to do this differently. We have to do it better.'"
When it comes to One World Trade, better is an understatement — the concrete itself is the most dense and impact-resistant ever used in a building. "The concrete core is 14,000 psi. Strongest concrete ever used anywhere, in a skyscraper," Dupre said.
As the exclusive leasing agent for One World Trade, Tara Stacom's job is to convince prospective tenants that the tower is impenetrable, but escapable.
"All the new buildings today are building based upon what we've done here at One World Trade Center," said Stacom. "So cores are strengthened. They're concrete. Life safety is within those cores. Stairs now are made extra wide. We have something unusual, which is a direct fire-responder stair. So they have their own stair to get up and down in the case of need. They have their own separate elevator as well that can operate."
To prevent a logjam of people trying to get out in case of emergency, One World Trade's staircases are 20 percent wider than required by code.
Safety and security considerations contributed to the high cost not only of One World Trade, but of other nearby buildings. For example, the estimated cost to reconstruct the nearly 200-year-old St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, which was destroyed on 9/11, is $40 million.
"This construction zone is extremely expensive, because of the high security, because of the high tolerances," said Jerry Dimitriou, executive director of administration for the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. "We're sitting on top of a bombproof pad, because of the specifications that the Port Authority has put forth. … The design has to be maintained so that it can withstand certain blast criteria. So, all of those things add up to a more expensive build for the church."
But 15 years after the deadliest terrorist attack in U.S. history, these expensive architectural feats of defiance may be a defense against the wrong threat.