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Remembering Our Roots: The Design of the World Trade Center
Remembering Our Roots: The Design of the World Trade Center

 by:  Diane Dowling
Senior Vice President & Chief Financial Officer – Washington, DC Office

The World Trade Center represented the pioneering spirit of America – that drive to push beyond the boundaries of the known and show the world what imagination, hard work and determination can achieve.  As a nation, we had done it before and we would do it again.  In fact, the very resilience of the human spirit, and the nation as a whole, as demonstrated immediately during and after the events of 9/11/01 and again during the commemorative events this weekend perhaps was pioneering on the next great frontier for our civilization: emotional connection.

It was in this spirit of recollection and connection that Cini-Little staff across the U.S., Canada, and Qatar, drew together last Friday on a webinar to hear the words of its founder, John Cini, as he described our small firm’s big effort in the design of the foodservices at the World Trade Center.  This project laid the foundation and springboard for the growth of our company, and the webinar was a peek into our rich company heritage, back to when our firm was just getting started.  Together with Bill Eaton, John told the stories behind the story and we got a glimpse into not only the World Trade Center but also the spirit that pushed its design to make an impact on the skyline of New York City and in the hearts of so many.

Windows on the World

The most well-known dining facility in the complex, and the city, was Windows on the World.  Few know the challenges associated with its design, such as:

  • It was an acre in size.
  • The building core was enormous and had to be worked around.
  • The kitchen needed to be all-electric.
  • It got its food product from the commissary over 107 stories below, using one freight elevator shared by all foodservice outlets to deliver thousands of pounds of food daily.

The Hors D’Oeuverie had a unique piece of furniture, conceived by architectural interior designer icon Warren Platner who envisioned it when he saw the burl on an old tree in his yard.  This was transformed into “a handsome custom table, almost a sculpture” according to Gael Green, New York Magazine’s famed food critic, with fingers extending out in many directions to hold the array of hors d’oeuvre choices. 

As most know by now, the dining room windows were wider than those of floors below.  As the story goes, Joe Baum, the venerable New York restaurateur who drove the foodservice program at the World Trade Center, had seen the small windows at the Rainbow Room in the RCA Building, and he pushed the Port Authority and the architect, Minoru Yamasaki, to broaden the view.  Windows on the World:  The view made it spectacular but the kitchen made it possible.

The Big Kitchen

For the everyday visitor to the World Trade Center and so many of the thousands that worked there, stopping in the Big Kitchen located on the concourse one level below the street was a part of the daily routine.  It was a marché concept before the industry knew the word.  There were 8 stations, each with food displays to tantalize and tempt the buyer.  The loaves of bread were bounteous, overflowing baskets on tables and counters.  There was a deli station and a whole station devoted to cheeses.  Back in the day, rotisseries were unusual and were found in high-end restaurants to demonstrate how the food was freshly prepared; the Big Kitchen took this concept and brought it to daytime, so to speak, gifting it to the common diner.  The grill area had a refrigerated case with the burger patties, showing the freshness of the product.  The seafood was straight from Fulton Fish Market (then located in lower Manhattan) and could be purchased fully-cooked or raw to take home and prepare yourself.  And with the transit hub located in the building, for many it was just a quick train ride to get home.

The Commissary

Deep in the bowels of the building was the commissary, a centralized food receiving, pre-production and distribution center.  Here, all the food was received into the building through one loading dock several levels below ground.  The quantity of food deliveries to serve over 3,000 seats was quite challenging in itself, and deliveries had to be carefully scheduled to prevent traffic jams, both outside and inside the building. 

 While there were other foodservices there, like the Market Bar & Dining Rooms, the Eat & Drink, the SkyDive and the Tele-Deli on the sky lobby levels, we wanted to highlight the most memorable and the most unusual.

Working with Joe Baum, Warren Platner and the many others on the design team was fun and exciting.  We were creating something big, something memorable.

For our firm, the work we did on the World Trade Center is just what we do.  Think beyond.  Push forward.  Collaborate and achieve.  It is what our nation did then, does now, and will continue to do as long as we have imagination and spirit.

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