The designs for New York's Two World Trade Center make it look like a giant game of Jenga

Image: BIG.

Hot on the heels of One World Trade Center's completion, plans for another tower on the World Trade Center site have been revealed. Two World Trade will, according to architects BIG (yes, "BIG"), be made up of a collection of differently sized cuboids, stacked on top of one another.

Finding that hard to visualise? It should look a little like this:

From this angle, the tower looks a little, well precarious. But two walls are actually straight, with the decreasing size of the cubes on the way up, and the higher sections slightly jutting over the edge of the lower on one side, giving the illusion of a municipal game of Jenga. 

The building's main tenants wilil be two Murdoch companies, News Corp and 21st Century Fox. They actually rejected earlier, more traditional designs for the building from Foster + Partners because the tower looked too much like an "investment bank", not a media headquarters. We're assuming this funkier design is more up their street, as they signed a lease deal with developers last week. 

The building will rise to 408m, more than 100m shorter than the One World Trade tower. That's not the only way in which it feels like it's intended as a supplement to the main tower. Diagrams released by BIG show how the tower is meant to appear to "lean" against its big brother: 

The shape, meanwhile, was chosen to reflect both the architecture of the financial district, and the older buildings in Tribeca, the area just to the north of the site. BIG have provided this handy equation to illustrate what they're calling the tower's "new hybrid" style:

If all goes ahead as planned, the new skyscraper should be completed by 2020. 

All images: BIG. 


How spurious imperial science affected the layout of African cities

Freetown, Sierra Leone. Image: David Hond/Freetown From The Air/Wikimedia Commons.

As the European powers spread across the world, systematically colonising it as they went, one of the deadliest enemies they faced was disease. In 1850s India, one in twenty British soldiers were dying from such diseases – on a par with British Empire casualty rates during World War II.

When Europeans started dropping dead the minute they got off the boat, the scientists of the day rushed to provide their own, at times fairly dodgy, solutions. This era coincided with a key period of city planning in the African colonies – meaning that there is still visible evidence of this shoddy science in the cityscape of many modern African cities.
For a long time altitude was considered a protection against disease, on the grounds that it was far from the lowland heat associated with putrefaction. British officials in India retreated to the ‘hill stations’ during the warm season; this practice continued in the African colonies established by all sorts of European powers in the late 19th century.

So it was that one bunch of imperialists established the capital of German Kamerun at Buea, high on the side of Mount Cameroon. The city still has a population of 90,000 today. Evidence of this height fetish can still be found in the ‘Plateau’ districts of Brazzaville, Dakar and Abidjan as well as the ‘Ridge’ district of Accra.

Malaria, particularly, was an ever present fear in the colonies, and it did much to shape the colonial cities. It’s a sign of the extent to which 19th century medical science misunderstood how the disease was spread that its name comes from the French for ‘bad air’. By the late 19th century, knowledge had managed to progress far enough to identify mosquitoes as the culprits – but views still wildly diverged about the appropriate response.

One solution popular in many empires was segregation. The Europeans had incorrectly identified Africans as the main carriers of the disease; African children under five were believed to be the main source of malaria so they were to be kept far away from the colonists at all times.

And so, many powers decided that the European settlers should be housed in their own separate areas. (Of course, this wrong headed but at least rational response wasn’t the whole explanation: often, sanitary concerns were used to veil simple racial chauvinism.)

The affluent Hill Station – a name reminiscent of the Indian colonies – in Freetown, Sierra Leone was built as a segregated suburb so Europeans could keep well clear of the local children. Today, it’s where the home of the president can be found. Yet despite all this expensive shuffling of Freetown’s urban landscape, inhabitants of Hill Station came down with malaria at about the same as those who lived elsewhere.


The Uganda Golf Course, Kampala. Image: Google Maps.

In Kampala, Uganga, a golf course now occupies the land designated by the British powers to protect the European neighbourhood from the African. A similar appropriation can be seen in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of The Congo, where a zoo, botanical garden and another golf course can be found the land earmarked for protecting colonial officials and their families.

All this urban juggling was the privilege of immensely powerful colonial officials, backed up by the military might of the imperial powers. The indigenous peoples could do little but watch as their cities were bulldozed and rebuilt based on the whims of the day. Yet the scars are still visible in the fabric of many modern African cities today.