Guy Tozzoli: Architect who oversaw the building of the World Trade Centre


Guy Tozzoli, who died on 2 February 10 days before his 91st birthday, was the man responsible for overseeing the planning, construction, and operation of the former 110-storey World Trade Centre towers that were destroyed in the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001. He also helped build the world's first container port, in Newark, New Jersey.

In 1993, when a truck bombing seriously damaged the Twin Towers, Tozzoli, who had an office in the building, was trapped on a staircase for three hours. On 11 September 2001, he was stuck in traffic and just about to enter the Holland Tunnel when he saw fire in the North Tower and then watched as the second plane slammed into the South Tower.

In a letter to members of the World Trade Centers Association shortly after the attack, he mourned the loss of life but said, "We must redouble our efforts to bring the world together under the banner of 'Peace and Stability Through Trade'."

Tozzoli was born in North Bergen, New Jersey and joined the Port of New York Authority in 1946. He served in the Navy during the Korean War then returned to the Port Authority, and was responsible for the construction of the first container port, shifting maritime activities from New York to Newark.

In 1961 he created the transportation section of the New York World's Fair and, in 1962 he was named the Port Authority's Director of World Trade and given responsibility for founding the World Trade Centre and constructing its headquarters. Tozzoli's vision, encouraged by some, discouraged by many, led to the construction of the 110-storey, 10 million-square-foot Twin Towers. Dedicated in April 1973, they were at the time the tallest buildings in the world and included – at Tozzoli's insistence – the Windows on the World restaurant. Readers' Digest described the project as "the largest building project since the Egyptian Pyramids."

In 1962, international trade accounted for 2.7 per cent of the United States' gross national product. Today it accounts for more than 22 per cent, growth that is due in no small part to Tozzoli's singular focus on fostering world trade. In 1970 he founded the World Trade Centers Association with an initial contingent of 15 cities in seven countries He was named its first volunteer leader and then sought relentlessly to expand to other countries. When representatives of the Chinese government asked for advice in the 1970s, he insisted that they create their own world trade centres, overcoming their resistance because, as he pointed out, there was already one in Taiwan.

In the 1990s he worked to launch world trade centres in South and North Korea, an effort for which he was nominated for the Nobel Peace prize in 1997, 1998 and 1999. "Decades ago, United Nations Secretary General U Thant recognised Guy's vision as a 'United Nations of Commerce'," said Eric R Dahl, chief executive officer of the WTCA, in tribute. "And so it remains today."