The World Trade Center has a new logo. Part of a $3.57 million branding endeavor, it's a riff on space and negative space, presence and absence. It’s like a Rubin vase test, playing tricks on the eye and asking viewers to see what they want to see. Which would almost be poetic if not for the fact that it could also be read as an ad for a luxury shopping mall.
To be fair, Landor Associates, the firm that designed the logo, had the difficult task of branding something that's almost impossible to brand; there are too many conflicting ideas about what the World Trade Center site is, and should be. The logo reflects as much. As the New York Times reports, each of the five bars stands for the five towers in what will be the entire 16-acre World Trade Center complex when it’s complete. The slant of the top half of the logo is at a precise 17.76-degree angle, a hat tip to 1 World Trade Center’s 1,776-foot height.
As for the Twin Towers, their shadows are visible in the logo if you look closely enough. The two empty columns in the top half refer to the Tribute in Light, a heartwrenching memorial to the fallen towers that got under way in 2002. Below them, the two white columns allude to the twin pools of the National September 11 Memorial.
The whole thing is also a W which stands for “World Trade Center” as well as the "Westfield World Trade Center," a luxury shopping center that opens next year. (To my eyes, it also bears an uncanny resemblance to the old Wired magazine W.)
According to the New York Times, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the public agency that owns the World Trade Center site, awarded Landor a $3.57 million contract for the job last year.
The logo manages to squeeze in so many references, juggling a landmark, a Twin Tower tribute, and an ad in one, that it feels like it's pandering. But given the wildly competing interests that have informed the redevelopment of the site, this logo just might be the perfect embodiment of a space still in search of its identity.