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Spend a Day on the Highest Floor of One World Trade Center

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All photos by Max Touhey.

One World Trade Center is the tallest building in New York City. More symbolically, it's the most obvious physical marker of downtown's fraught, complex redevelopment. The 1,776-foot-tall tower opened in November to much fanfare; at the moment, Conde Nast and other tenants occupy the lower floors. But on April 1, Servcorp, a company that sets up and then leases out luxury office space by the month to high-flying business types, opened its New York flagship on the 85th floor. Though offices will go up to 90—and One World Observatory will occupy the 100th, 101st, and 102nd stories when it opens in May—right now Servcorp occupies the highest point in the building you can go without wearing a hard hat. What follows is a diary, accompanied by scores of photos and even an awesome time-lapse video, of a work day spent floating above the city. For all the former Freedom Tower's travails, it is a very special place that offers an unmatched vantage point to soak up New York's glory.
—Hana R. Alberts, Jessica Dailey, Jeremiah Budin, and Zoe Rosenberg

9 a.m.: In awe of the looming skyscraper above and jarred by the crowds streaming out of the temporary PATH station, we arrive and are greeted in the lobby, which looks exactly like the renderings and photos promised, with soaring white stone-clad walls that make the room feel more like something out of a utopian fantasy novel than a real-life place in the Financial District. The wall-sized art is wildly colorful, a contrast to the atmosphere of a Serious Office Building that is Very Tall. We're herded to get our day passes, which for better or worse have very unflattering pictures of each of us printed on them. They look like really weird receipts. We finally figure out how to scan the passes and get through the gates to the elevator banks. Entering their elevator bank, the flawless employees of Condé Nast flash some serious side-eye.

9:13 a.m.: In the elevator, we make small talk about said unflattering pass pictures and silently regret our breakfast decisions (or lack thereof) as the elevator whizzes up to the 64th floor, where we have to transfer to yet another elevator. For a few of us, this is first time we've ever had to take an elevator to another elevator. The elevator bank opens into a stunning atrium with views up the length of Manhattan, a.k.a the Sky Lobby.

All of us exercise incredible restraint and wait to post the views online until later.

We pick our jaws up off the floor, and get into the second elevator.

9:14 a.m.: The elevator opens into a regal hallway with shiny, bronze-colored floors and wood-paneled walls.

The office just opened on April 1, and it still has that "new house" smell. Servcorp's reception area opens onto the holy grail of New York City views; as soon as you turn away from the elevators, there is the Empire State Building.

We shake hands politely with Servcorp's reception people, and make casual jokes about that view (best we'd ever seen, all around, although we play it cool and don't say as much because professionalism).

9:20 a.m.: We're led down a hallway to where we will be working from for the day. The hallway is lined with offices, which have glass walls and sliding doors with a frosted "river pebble" pattern for privacy.

Servcorp's COO Marcus Moufarrige later tells us that the carpet in all of their offices has the same pattern and is made of New Zealand wool. "I wanted black in here," he says, "But we had a lot of red made, so it's red."

9:26 a.m.: Our office, we discover, also has totally bonkers views of the Brooklyn Bridge, the Santiago Calatrava-designed Transportation Hub, the Woolworth Building and everything in between and out beyond Queens, all the way to the Atlantic Ocean and Nassau County.

We send photos to our colleagues in Midtown. Everyone is jealous.

9:28 a.m.: We each have our own large, wooden desk with our own phones, and they have our names on them, like, digitally on the screen. To put our feelings about this in perspective: our real office does not have phones.

Servcorp offers clients a telephone answering service, which means that a real, human person will also answer your calls. You can have your cell phone, office phone, or really any number you like set up in their system so a receptionist answers. They did this for our cell phone numbers, but sadly, no one called us, so we didn't get to experience it.

Our desk chairs are another delight. They are custom Herman Miller swivel chairs with plush leather seats. Moufarrige says that this is the first time they've used this type of chair, but every design is chosen because it will last. The overall aesthetic of all Servcorp offices is "modern classic." They never want the offices to feel dated or rundown.

9:32 a.m.: If you'd think it would be difficult to concentrate with views of the entire city three feet to your left, you'd be right. We settle into the normal blogging routine after eyeing the complimentary goodies in the room, which include two sleeves of really delicious Australian chocolate cookies, a bottle of Shiraz, and a stuffed wombat in a suit and monocle named, in full, Sidney, The World's Wisest Wombat. Sidney, we later learn, has his own website, which chroncle his travels.

He's chill—way more so than we are. The air up here must be making us dizzy.

9:40 a.m.: Our Servcorp rep Sharon offers us morning beverages. An inquiry about soy milk results in Sharon offering to go down 85 floors and get some from the outside world. We're all really, really impressed and feel important, and politely decline. We enjoy the Australian cookies and the coffee, which are both delicious, and orient ourselves.

10:04 a.m.: We go on a tour of Servcorp's office, which covers the full floor. We learn that the office has over $3 million worth of art in it, and notice that most of it is paintings of naked people.

We later learn that all of the paintings belong to Moufarrige's father-in-law. The man is a serious art collector, and he bought these pieces decades ago but had never seen them. Before the lot came to One World Trade Center, most of the 55 pieces had just been sitting in storage.

10:18 a.m.: There's a kitchen with dining counters, two dishwashers, microwave, coffee maker, and refrigerator. It's stocked with drinks and snacks, but they are not free. That said, sales of the snacks are "on an honor system," so if you're a horrible person, that could be interpreted as "free."

10:30 a.m.: A Chinese firm will take up a portion of Servcorp's southwest offices. We admire their commitment to feng shui, and wish we knew anything about it.

10:45 a.m.: We get back to work, but, as we mentioned, it's kind of hard to do that when there's a floor-to-ceiling glass wall 85 stories in the air an arm's length away.

11:00 a.m.: A friend notices a Facebook photo that we posted. "Are you in the Freedom Tower?" "Nobody calls it that." "What do they call it?" "One World Trade Center.' "No, that's the address. It's called the Freedom Tower."

12:03 p.m.: Our Servcorp rep comes by to "refresh our water."

12:30 p.m.: As the sun moves over the building, our views start to improve. The East River looks delightfully glittery today.

Our window looks directly over the temporary PATH station, and the future site of 2 World Trade Center, so once Norman Foster's tower goes up, the river will be a lot less visible. Ah, and there's the future PATH station: Calatrava's "bird in flight," or stegosaurus skeleton, or something. The "glorious boondoggle" is costing $4 billion, and it's supposed to be complete this year after many delays.

Just to the south, 3 World Trade Center (pictured below) is also on the rise.

12:50 p.m.: Lunchtime! A friend who works at Conde Nast can only get one of us into the cafeteria, which is on the 35th floor. It involves going down to the lobby, going to another check-in desk, and going through security again. It faces south and west, is crowded and serves quinoa bowls (as one would expect from Vogue types) and a wide array of salads and juices as well as a grill with burgers and fries. The rest of us venture outside to Hudson Eats at Brookfield Place. The downtown lunch crowd seems a lot younger and better-dressed than the Midtown lunch crowd. Hudson Eats is crowded, but amazingly, we're in and out in 20 minutes.

1:32 p.m.: It's impossible to pass through the 64th floor, which we do again, without stopping. A 10-minute photo session ensues. We stop again in Servcorp's perfectly north-facing reception area, and take it all in.

2 p.m.: The men's room has complementary mouth wash and little plastic cups, which is cool, and a comb, which is… less cool. Have other people used this comb? Hard pass on the comb. The women's bathroom has no comb or mouthwash, but it does have dry shampoo, lotion, hairspray, and a lint roller.

2:46 p.m.: A Servcorp rep is showing around a prospective client. She tells him they can knock the wall in our office down to make it a larger space. He hangs back by the door, hesitant, until she says, "Would you like to see the views?" He grins and heads to the window. Really, it is the only thing to do in a space like this. With absolutely nothing on the walls (though clients can hang their own art), the room would be kinda depressing if it was any other office, but that is not a concern here.

3:30 p.m.: This is probably the best our view has looked all day. It's so clear, you can easily see planes taking off and landing at JFK. 4 World Trade Center's uber-reflective facade is practically camouflage, reflecting the city around it.

4 p.m.: We sit down to talk with Moufarrige in a conference room that holds a massive granite table. "Our goal is amazing presentation," he says, noting that granite was chosen because it won't scratch. "Not amazing presentation for our clients, but for their clients." He adds, "We're a premium brand with a premium fit out for a premium clientele." Ah, premium is important.

The stone tables, leather furniture, and private offices are contradictory to what most people think of when they hear "co-working space": large rooms filled with millennial tech workers and their laptops. But Servcorp is most definitely not that (though they will offer a open-plan option for the first time at One World Trade). Servcorp has been around since 1978, and it's better described as a company that sells fully serviced office space (i.e. with a phone service, receptionist, internet, etc.), rather than a company that rents desks.

One World Trade Center is Servcorp's fourth location in New York City. When asked why the building was attractive to them, Moufarrige says they want "the most premium addresses in cities," so it was a natural fit. Plus, as someone who spends a lot of time working in Asia—the company has 21 centers in Tokyo alone—Moufarrige says that it is extremely hard to find new, glassy office buildings in the United States, which is what they want. (He said they will look at Hudson Yards when it's ready.)

Servcorp has 70-plus offices available at One World Trade, and they are currently about 30 percent leased, with monthly fees ranging from $2,500 to $6,000.

Tenants come from a broad range of sectors—they've signed financial firm, web strategists, tech companies, and hedge funds—and they are seeing a lot of interest from China. (It helps that the China Center is opening an outpost a few floors up, but they haven't yet built out the space.) Moufarrige also predicts that they will see a lot of interest from the fashion industry. "Brands will want to be close to Conde," he says. Burberry, for example, may want to send their top two executives to New York, but they won't have a need for a whole satellite office—enter Servcorp.

4:37 p.m.: Moufarrige takes us to a south-facing office, with stunning views of the harbor, Governors Island, and the Statue of Liberty.

He thought that most clients would want views up to Midtown, but it's been "about 70/30" with the majority wanting to look at Lady Liberty.

4:45 p.m.: We walk through the south portion of the floor, which will hold what most people would consider a "traditional" co-working space. It's still under construction, but it will have one large communal table, as well as "meeting nooks" and storage lockers. There will be an art gallery and library, too. Desks will cost $750 per month.

Then there's this view to sell it, of course.

5:02 p.m.: Near the elevators, there's an art gallery with more of Moufarrige's father-in-law's pieces. The floors have the same shiny brown finish as the lobby. Moufarrige explains that they wanted marble floors, but the slabs were too thick to fit under the doors. Building officials told them they could do polished concrete or carpet tiles, which, to put it lightly, Moufarrige thinks are horrible. Declasse, if you will. So the floors are finished with Flowcrete. It's concrete mixed with color, and "a donut thing gloops the concrete onto the floor," says Moufarrige. Sounds weird, looks cool.

5:16 p.m. Then, we evaluate Jersey, determining that we can see some sort of brush fire. The westerly views also include a birds-eye view of Battery Park City and Brookfield Place.

5:24 p.m.: Time to crack open the wine! And eat more Australian cookies. Should we be embarrassed that we ate both packages? To make up for it, we assess neighboring office buildings 7 World Trade Center and 4 World Trade Center from above. We've spent the day towering over the stages of World Trade Center redevelopment that were completed earlier, and they should get their due.

6:03 p.m.: It's harder to leave the office when it's this pleasant. We linger in the Sky Lobby, capturing those last few panoramas. But we finally decamp for the subway, strolling along Vesey Street as the sun sets behind us, and One World Trade Center.

1WTC - Time Lapse from Curbed on Vimeo.

· Servcorp [official]
· A Day of Unreal Views From the Top of the World Trade Center [Curbed]
· All One World Observatory coverage [Curbed]
· All One World Trade Center coverage [Curbed]

One World Trade Center Freedom Tower

72 Vesey Street, New York, NY 10006