One World Trade Center: Virtual View From the Top

What will the views be like from the Observation Floor of the emerging World Trade Center's Tower One?
The dizzying virtual tour (see link below) shows what visitors to the new WTC Tower 1 would  see when its is complete in 2013. These stitched panoramas were shot in June of 2005 as part of a view shed study to help the architects preview the best views from key floors in the planned "Freedom Tower". 
A customized tethered aerostat balloon ascended to 1376 ft above Ground Zero to shoot this 360 degree series of panoramas. Due to current airspace and safety restrictions the views at this altitude have not been seen since the tragic morning of September 11th 2001.  The new building is presently about 900 ft above ground. This was a record setting tethered balloon flight, with two remotely fired panoramic cameras by Digital Design & Imaging Service, Inc. of Falls Church Virginia.

When the 1,776-foot-tall (541-meter-tall) One World Trade Center tower is completed in 2013, this will be the view from its observation floor.

Created by combining two wide-angle photographs taken from a balloon, this June 2005 panorama shows a 360-degree view that hasn't been seen by the general public since the 9/11 attacks destroyed the original World Trade Center towers. The new tower will include a 15-story concrete base, reinforced walls, and wider stairways to make it more resistant to attacks.

The wire-tethered, unmanned balloon was released from a trailer at ground zero and raised to a height of 1,376 feet (419 meters) above ground—the elevation of the planned observation level in One World Trade Center. After verifying its height with a laser rangefinder, the balloon's cameras were triggered remotely.

"We rehearsed [the balloon's release] for about six months," said Curt Westergard, president of the balloon-imaging company Digital Design + Imaging Service, which created the panorama for architecture firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.

Architects use aerial photographs such as this one to see how landmarks or neighboring structures will appear from a future building's windows.

Taking pictures with a balloon at ground zero "was the most challenging thing I've ever done in my life," Westergard told National Geographic News. The depth and angular edges of the pit from the twin towers made for unpredictable winds, and the psychological aspect of working at ground zero was "very daunting."

"The last people to see [this view] were the people that were suffering so badly" inside the Twin Towers, Westergard added. The altitude is too low for helicopters and too high for cranes, and restricted airspace after 9/11 has kept commercial airliners away from lower Manhattan. (See a time line of the events of 9/11.)

By creating this image for architects, Westergard hopes "to help [1 WTC] become one of the best buildings possible."

Also see pictures of 9/11 artifacts, and get the personal stories behind them >>