TIME View From the Top

The Making of the One World Trade Center Panorama

Bruce Springsteen got it right when he called his magnificent album of post-9/11 songs The Rising. The title track acknowledges the heartbreaking strangeness of the empty sky above lower Manhattan after the Twin Towers fell. “Sky full of longing and emptiness,” he calls it. But then he sings about the new sky the rising will bring: “Sky of fullness, sky of blessed life.” With the near completion of 1 World Trade, the rising has happened and that sky is back.

With that prospect in mind, last year TIME entered into negotiations with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the regional agency that built the original World Trade Center and likewise owns the new one, to gain exclusive access to the antenna-spire that tops the new tower. Our aim was to take an unprecedented 360-degree interactive image from the topmost point of what is now the tallest building in the western hemisphere.

After months of back and forth, we were granted access. Then TIME partnered with Gigapan, a tech startup based in Portland, Ore. Beginning with crude bar-napkin sketches and eventually moving to mechanical engineers working in AutoCAD and then to welders in Asheville, N.C., an eight-month process of design and construction resulted in a 13-ft.-long aluminum jib calibrated to adhere to the base of the beacon at the top of the tower’s 408-ft. spire. To that rotating arm was attached a Canon 5D Mark II with a 100-mm lens. Over a five-hour span of orbital shooting on Sept. 28, 2013, the camera produced 567 pictures that were then stitched together digitally into a single massive—and zoomable—image of everything the eye can see in all directions. This is how that amazing image came to be.

See the image and read the full story.

TIME View From the Top

The Top of America

1 World Trade Center
1 World Trade Center Stephen Wilkes for TIME

After 12 years of anticipation, the tallest skyscraper in the Western Hemisphere is ready for its closeup. How 10,000 workers lifted 104 floors, gave new life to an international symbol and created one spectacular view

Introduction by Richard Lacayo

For years after the 9/11 attacks, nearly all the activity at Ground Zero was downward—digging through the piles of debris, excavating a vast pit to restore the ruined transit lines, preparing the foundations for the new buildings that would emerge there. Even the memorial that opened in 2011 was an exercise in the poetics of descent—two vast cubic voids, each with water cascading down all four sides, carrying grief to some underground resting place.

The memorial has turned out to be a lovely thing, but what the site still needed was something that climbed, something that spoke to the idea that emotional burdens might not only be lowered into the ground but also released into the air. Now we have it: One World Trade Center, the glass-and-steel exclamation point, all 1,776 feet of it, is nearing completion close to where the Twin Towers once stood. No doubt the new building’s official dedication will open the way to a necessary debate over its merits as architecture and urbanism, its turbulent design history and the compromises made over the long years it took to get the thing built. But in one important respect, One World Trade Center has already succeeded. It has reclaimed the sky. And this is the view from there.

Photograph by Jonathan D. Woods and Michael Franz for TIME

See the full experience at time.com/wtc

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