WTC History

The World Trade Center (WTC) complex consisted of seven buildings, spanning 16 acres. The complex housed office space, an observation deck, the “Windows on the World” restaurant, and an underground shopping mall. It served as a transit hub for New Jersey PATH train and New York City subway riders. About 50,000 people worked at the WTC complex, with another 40,000 passing through daily. 

Original World Trade Center Architectural Presentation Model

In the early 1960s the architectural firm Minoru Yamasaki Associates (MYA) was awarded the WTC project and the firm built more than 100 presentation models, only three of which were large-scale models, for the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey to demonstrate how the proposed complex would look upon completion.

Located near Detroit, Mich., MYA tapped the talents of precision mold makers working in the automotive industry to help fabricate the presentation model’s plastic components.

The events of September 11, 2001 destroyed the WTC archives and one of the remaining models on view in the lobby on the 88th floor of the North Tower. The large-scale model (pictured) was built from 1969-1971 and is the largest, most detailed of the original series of architectural presentation models created by MYA and still surviving today.

The model has undergone meticulous conservation.  In 1993, The American Architectural Foundation acquired the model and in 2003, received a grant from the Save America’s Treasures program to fund its preservation. Deterioration of materials used for the model’s construction required intensive conservation work to stabilize the piece. Replacement pieces were located, hand painted, and carefully matched to the original remaining pieces using photographs and existing loss areas to determine the original placement.

Listen to oral histories about the original World Trade Center

The model was donated by The American Architectural Foundation and will be displayed in the 9/11 Memorial Museum. It includes replicas of 300 cars and 170 people. At the time it was created, the three-dimensionality of the individual pieces and the model’s realism was unprecedented for architectural models of the period. Built at a scale of 1:200 and measuring eight by ten feet at the base, with the Twin Towers rising over seven feet high, the model vividly demonstrates the sheer size and mass of the original WTC complex.

In the wake of 9/11, the model was exhibited twice in New York City. In its pre-conservation condition, the model was shown in the exhibit, "WTC: MONUMENT” organized by the Skyscraper Museum at the New-York Historical Society, and then later included as the center-piece, post-conservation, at another World Trade Center exhibition at the Skyscraper Museum in Battery Park City.

Manhattan Schist

Capable of supporting the immense weight of the Twin Towers, this distinctive foundational bedrock was exposed anew after 9/11. 

The 450 million year old piece of schist (the second oldest of New York City’s bedrocks) was excavated in August 2008 as crews dug the foundations of the 9/11 Memorial Museum at the WTC complex.  Manhattan schist, flecked with sparkling white mica, provides such a strong foundation that it makes the soaring skyline of New York City possible.