In her latest book, New York Times bestselling author and Mamaroneck resident Judith Dupré will tackle One World Trade Center’s long road to fruition.
By JAMES PERO
Perhaps the only thing more intriguing than the content of Judith Dupré’s books is the way they’re presented.
“Skyscrapers,” a New York Times bestseller, is elongated and skinny, mimicking the dimensions of the towers chronicled between its covers; “Bridges” sprawls horizontally in a homage to the architectural design of its namesake; “Churches,” another New York Times best seller, folds open like the gates to a chapel, revealing its pages like a church’s nave.
For her next book, however—which catalogues the arduous, and oftentimes emotionally-charged, construction of One World Trade Center—Dupré may not need any symbolic design; the building, and the tragic history that preceded its erection, speak for themselves.
Dupre said, though the Twin Towers, which stood in place of One World Trade Center before terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, are now long gone, their shadow still looms over the site.
“The opportunity arose to write about One World Trade Center,” Dupré said. “And I thought, ‘Here’s this challenge.’ How do I make this new when everything down there is haunted by the ghost of 9/11… The biggest challenge that One World Trade Center has to face is exorcising the ghosts of the past.”
In late July, Dupré, a resident of Prospect Avenue in Mamaroneck, was one of 36 applicants to receive a grant from the National Endowment of the Humanities for its inaugural Public Scholars program, a grant which will help fund her newest endeavor; a book called “One World Trade Center: The Biography of the Building,” which is set to be released in spring 2016.
“Skycrapers,” first published in 1996, is 18 inches tall and designed to mimic the towers inside.
The $37,800 grant will aid Dupré—who was given unprecedented access to the site, archives, and suppliers of the Trade Center by the Port Authority—in crafting a book that will take readers on an immersive journey through the building’s actualization, using original photography, transcripts from more than 70 interviews with the buildings chief architects and designers, and an interactive website where readers will be able to explore the topic even further.
Dupré is no rookie when it comes to writing about architecture. She has developed a track record for rendering the world’s architecture in a way that is both accessible and enjoyable to mass audiences for the past 30 years, selling nearly a million copies worldwide.
But according to Dupré, no building has surprised her as much as One World Trade Center.
“The building had to do so much,” she said. “It had to be a good place for thousands of people to work; it had to be the most secure building in the world. [One World Trade Center’s] security measures have changed the way skyscrapers are built around the world … It’s an incredibly innovative building.”
Despite the building’s ability to inspire awe, according to Dupré, both constructing the building as well as writing about it came with its fair share of complications. For her, the major obstacle was capturing the beauty and ethos of the Trade Center while presenting opinions about it.
“Sorting out all the opinions in an equitable way [was difficult],” she said. “Everyone wanted to tell me the real story. There were a lot of opinions.”
Surprisingly, according to Dupré, the Trade Center’s biggest obstacle to fruition may have been, not having too few, but too many people willing to help.
“Building the Trade Center was like a relay race where people just brought in significant concepts and then handed off the baton to the next person who then advanced it again a bit,” she said. “It took a long time to build. It was also a project that was slowed by a smothering of good intentions. People wanted to help; people wanted to be involved.”
This complication, according to Dupré, was also one of the Trade Center’s biggest triumphs.
During the push to erect One World Trade Center, the author explains that dozens of organizations consisting of hundreds of members, along with more than 26,000 construction
workers were involved in brining the Trade Center to life.
“With no hyperbole,” Dupré said, “One World Trade Center is the most profound collaboration in history.”
Even though the book is nearing completion according to Dupré, she continues to spitball new ideas for how to make the reading experience even more immersive and interactive.
One idea involves a corresponding mobile app which would allow visitors of the site to hear interviews with some of One World Trade Center’s most important architects.
“We want to give people a way to use their smartphones to [interact] with One World Trade Center,” she said. “So you can pick up your phone and hear David Childs, the lead architect, tell you about the design.”
Beyond any app, website, design, or piece of written content, however, Dupré explained her simple goal for the book.
“My goal was to convey the beauty of One World Trade Center,” she said.
New York City’s iconic Flatiron Building is one of the towers featured in “Skyscrapers.” Photos/“Skyscrapers”