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Thread: WTC Transit Hub - by Santiago Calatrava

  1. #316
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    And, from her eminence:

    Too Much of a Good Thing?

    By Ada Louise Huxtable

    New York -- Santiago Calatrava is a multitalented practitioner of architecture, engineering and sculpture, and that is the problem: Are his spectacular structures all or none of the above? Just how well do his awesome gifts interact? An exhibition of his work on view until March 5 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art -- an institution that rarely presents a living architect and obviously endorses this one -- begs the question.

    "Santiago Calatrava: Sculpture Into Architecture" suggests a transition that is easily and reasonably made. The presentation links drawings, sculpture and a series of exquisite models of bridges, transportation buildings, museums and skyscrapers in a seductive narrative where natural forms are transformed through complex engineering into knockout creations of suave anthropomorphic appeal. There are repeated references to beaks, eyes, wings and parts of the human body. His buildings stack like spines and twist like torsos. They take off like planes and soar like birds. But is he Superman?

    The answer depends on whether you think that engineering -- the most rational and reductive of the building arts, where achievement is measured by economy of means -- has been used for a poetic breakthrough into the architectural stratosphere or pressed into the service of an overwrought expressionism that transcends programmatic needs. Mr. Calatrava admits that he pushes the limits -- that is the trademark of his creativity. One would have to be blind to ignore the grace, ingenuity and dramatic power of these monumental functional follies. Moreover, his buildings don't just sit there; their dynamic forms open and shut, undulate, and perform other kinetic feats.

    The modernist aesthetic applauds breaking boundaries over conventional solutions, but is there a point where one says "enough"? For those with a taste for a simpler structural logic, these dauntingly complex anatomical evocations can seem just a wee bit over the top. Euclid, alone, may have looked on beauty bare, but Mr. Calatrava never even glances in that direction. Arguably, a winglike superstructure or a whalelike exoskeleton can overstate the romantic experience of taking a train or a plane. On the other hand, one can point to Eero Saarinen's TWA terminal of 1956-62 as a respectable, even visionary precedent for the airport departure building as a bird in flight. But when the rising ribs of a cathedral suggest a pair of praying hands, one of the oldest visual cliches, doesn't that get dangerously close to kitsch?

    Would the Calatrava show have been more appropriately titled "Architecture Into Sculpture?" That raises equally troubling questions. How much extravagant and costly engineering is needed to turn architecture into sculpture, if this, indeed, is a desirable objective, and how far can it be carried before it undermines the art of building as a direct response to a stated need? Architecture has never lacked imagination or poetry within its own parameters.

    Considering how skillfully Mr. Calatrava conceives and constructs his dazzling objects, and how enormously popular they are, one feels churlish having reservations. These questions are not particular to his work, however; they are endemic to our times. The traditional interdependence of art, structure and utility that has been the measure of architecture since antiquity has become boring to the public and to much of the profession. What drives design and patronage now is the wow effect, which has little to do with the time-tested criteria of commodity, firmness and delight and more to do with signature styles as publicity and marketing tools. With the help of the computer, architecture as sculpture is here to stay.

    Including Mr. Calatrava's sculpture in the Metropolitan show stakes its claims as art. These blandly predictable abstractions of supersmooth gold plate and highly polished stone could meet Donald Trump's standards for the glossy finishes of his upscale buildings. They prompt one more question. Was it a calculated or unconscious act for the Met to position these pieces in clearly visible juxtaposition to the revolutionary early modernist works in the next gallery? It was very unkind; they are terribly upstaged by the aesthetic richness of Brancusi's radical subtleties of line and surface and the eccentric energy of Boccioni's frozen movement. What you see in Mr. Calatrava's sculpture is what you get, alas.

    It is instructive to compare Mr. Calatrava's work with that of two earlier engineers, Robert Maillart and Pier Luigi Nervi. Both had an artist's eye, but neither used engineering as a way of making sculpture. Maillart's bridges, pared down to a three-point arch, spanned the Alps with dancer-like precision from the start of the 20th century to the 1930s. A faultless synthesis of form, structure and use, they never overplayed their hand. The structural systems of Nervi's sports, exposition, and transportation buildings display an understated mastery of means; his ribbed and reticulated domes and ceilings have the delicacy of flowers. Both stressed solutions that grew out of the most efficient and elegant expression of the structure itself.

    Mr. Calatrava's romantic expressionism works best for buildings where symbolism matters. His addition to the Milwaukee Art Museum has already achieved iconic status; its importance for the city's identity and self-regard apparently overrides any difficulty its extravagant metaphors impose on installing art and the fact that attendance has not achieved anticipated levels.

    Enormous publicity (not all a bad thing) accompanied the development and delays in the construction of a soaring -- sorry, one cannot escape that word -- brise soleil, or sunscreen, topping the main structure, ostensibly to control the light but guaranteed to knock your socks off. It opens and closes, yes, like the wings of a bird, after many delays and costs that also soared like a bird. Anyone who wants to know what is involved in the formidable technology needed to soar like a bird can find it in Engineering News Record, the publication that chronicles such things. If engineering art is defined by a lucid economy of means, this is not it.

    But there are appropriate times and places in our cities and our lives when imagery and symbolism transcend function -- most notably now at Ground Zero, where Mr. Calatrava's Transportation Hub, commissioned by the Port Authority, is the only structure finally beginning to rise from that desolate hole. It is also the only remaining element of the aborted plan, all other traces of life having been extinguished by the political rollover to those few families who feel that memorializing the dead should take precedence over the living and everything else.

    The cultural buildings on which so much of the future depended, stigmatized by their opponents as "inappropriate," have been evicted or eviscerated for an enormous necropolis at the heart of the site. Apparently not even something as essential to the rebuilding as a transportation center can escape these maudlin pressures. The same group is threatening to stalemate construction by demanding the removal of the tracks that cross the corners of the Twin Towers' footprints where the underground trains must run. Love may be blind, but grief -- you should pardon the expression -- has tunnel vision.

    If we ever needed something soaring, we need it here. Mr. Calatrava's talents require exceptional circumstances. Let this building fly like a bird. The design is a practical solution and a symbol of rebirth meant to bring life and people back downtown, assuming there will be a downtown to come back to. Mr. Calatrava's building is hope. With or without wings, architecture can aim no higher.

  2. #317

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    I like what I'm reading about the hub. If it gets complete on time, it could serve as a major impetus for building the other towers, and put to rest the arguement that the "market" won't accomodate new buildings because people would rather commute to Midtown. BTW, there is a program tonight on the National Geographic Channel taking a tour of Grand Central. I hope that in 50 years from now, I see the History Channel or something like it give a comprehensive tour of Calatrava's building (which, IMHO, is the only truely memorable piece of architecture on the site....interestingly enough, Calatrava was under the least amount of pressure to design something good.)

  3. #318
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    Brava!
    Ada Louise Huxtable:

    ... Mr. Calatrava's Transportation Hub, commissioned by the Port Authority, is the only structure finally beginning to rise from that desolate hole. It is also the only remaining element of the aborted plan, all other traces of life having been extinguished by the political rollover to those few families who feel that memorializing the dead should take precedence over the living and everything else.

    ...The same group is threatening to stalemate construction by demanding the removal of the tracks that cross the corners of the Twin Towers' footprints where the underground trains must run. Love may be blind, but grief -- you should pardon the expression -- has tunnel vision.

  4. #319

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    Description of work relating to the construction of the transportation hub.
    1.Temporary underpinning of the IRT subway.
    2. Construction of the east bathtub.

    http://www.panynj.gov/drp/wtcth/init...rep=initconstr

    Figure 1

    Figure 2

    Figure 3

  5. #320

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    http://www.lowermanhattan.info/

    CB1 Hears Plan for WTC Retail "Full-Build" Option

    January 6, 2006

    The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey presented its latest "full-build" plan for the expansive retail program at the future World Trade Center Transportation Hub to Community Board 1 (CB1) on January 4. Currently, the plan would maximize retail space by boosting square footage to at least 550,000 -- in large part to help attract "high-level" retailers to the complex, as well as to help draw shoppers from around the region.

    With the full-build option, the Port Authority would expand on its more definite plans for 200,000 square feet of retail within the WTC Transportation Hub above and below grade. The larger plan would add at least three levels of stores and services to the lower floors of WTC towers 3 and 4 -- potentially before designs for those towers are finalized, by building out base-level "podiums" that will be suited for future construction. This plan would call for "sky" or elevated lobbies in both towers, and possibly a sky bridge to link them.

    Another major element of the full-build option is the pedestrian enclosure of Cortlandt Street between Church and Greenwich Streets to connect retail in towers 3 and 4. Though the Port Authority is still ironing out preliminary design details for the potential "Cortlandt Street corridor," the structure would be similar to the World Financial Center's Winter Garden and be made of steel and glass for optimum transparency and openness to pedestrians.

    In addition to the retail benefits, the Port Authority expects that an enclosed galleria for that 47-foot-wide block of Cortlandt Street would also serve as a climate-controlled throughway for pedestrians. It also would provide an at-grade "front door" to that section of WTC retail spaces and potentially stimulate office development in each of the towers.
    Cortlandt Street connects Church with Greenwich
    Cortlandt Street connects Church with Greenwich between towers 3 and 4*
    Following the Port Authority's presentation, the New York City Department of City Planning addressed CB1 with an alternative to an enclosed corridor. Director Ray Gastile proposed that Cortlandt Street might better serve the neighborhood by being open to both pedestrian and vehicular traffic. By returning that segment of Cortlandt Street to a regular street with curbs and sidewalks, Gastile explained, the expected millions of yearly WTC visitors and community members would have open-air physical and visual access and orientation to the WTC from Broadway -- as well as the option of entering the WTC retail space at several entry points.

    CB1's WTC redevelopment committee will deliberate on the retail options at the site and likely render its decision by February 2006.

    *Rendered images provided by Port Authority are illustrative and representational only.

  6. #321
    Build the Tower Verre antinimby's Avatar
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    The full build option sounds good. All these possibilities sound oh so exciting.
    I just hope they come to fruition instead of just empty talk like we've been getting. Also hope the "Families" don't somehow interfere and water these wonderful ideas down to something drab and depressing like they would like everything to be at that site.

    Skybridges are good, they can be good observation areas and I hope they do it Petronas-style.

  7. #322
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    BTW, have they made any physical progress with this?

  8. #323

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    With the full-build option, the Port Authority would expand on its more definite plans for 200,000 square feet of retail within the WTC Transportation Hub above and below grade. The larger plan would add at least three levels of stores and services to the lower floors of WTC towers 3 and 4 -- potentially before designs for those towers are finalized, by building out base-level "podiums" that will be suited for future construction. This plan would call for "sky" or elevated lobbies in both towers, and possibly a sky bridge to link them.

    Another major element of the full-build option is the pedestrian enclosure of Cortlandt Street between Church and Greenwich Streets to connect retail in towers 3 and 4. Though the Port Authority is still ironing out preliminary design details for the potential "Cortlandt Street corridor," the structure would be similar to the World Financial Center's Winter Garden and be made of steel and glass for optimum transparency and openness to pedestrians.

    I keep going back and forth on this. On the one hand, I would like the street open - not necessarily to traffic. I think you need street corners to fit in with the rest of the city. And then I can see the logic for wanting the enclosed space for the retail levels, similar to the WFC wintergarden.

  9. #324
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    A bridge over a street would be great. I like the idea of a return to the street grid. I would prefer the street to be operational. I find real streets occasionally closed for pedestrian use only much more interesting than fake streets built with a 24/7 pedestrian only vision.

  10. #325

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    Doesn't anyone find disturbing this suburban mall aethetic being pushed by the Port Authority? I realize the previous shopping at the WTC was a mall, and I also realize that the Wintergarden is regarded as a successful mall. But it seems to me that the new WTC is not being reborn in the same quasi-office park mold as WFC. So why put in a mall? What makes NYC unique in this entire country is the dynamism and energy of its streets. Bloomberg and co. talk about bringing back streetlife and the pedestrian experience to the WTC area, and yet it seems like few of them are questioning the appropriateness of a mall to that experience.

    Street level stores with individual entrances are the NYC experience. In contrast to DC, where I lived for many years and recall this one large office building on K St. It had a food court and a not-particularly- inspiring mall in its interior. The perimeter stores had both a mall entrance and a street entrance. Sounded promising for streetlife, yes, but invariably, the street entrances were locked shut and signs were posted "Please use mall entrance."

    And we shouldn't forget that the urban mall proposition is far from a sure bet. Witness Manhattan Mall. I can see Church St. having one entrance into a mall and the remainder of the west side of the street being relatively barren. This is what I fear will be the result if this mall concept is not challenged.

  11. #326

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    Quote Originally Posted by STREETLOVER
    Doesn't anyone find disturbing this suburban mall aethetic being pushed by the Port Authority? I realize the previous shopping at the WTC was a mall, and I also realize that the Wintergarden is regarded as a successful mall. But it seems to me that the new WTC is not being reborn in the same quasi-office park mold as WFC. So why put in a mall? What makes NYC unique in this entire country is the dynamism and energy of its streets. Bloomberg and co. talk about bringing back streetlife and the pedestrian experience to the WTC area, and yet it seems like few of them are questioning the appropriateness of a mall to that experience.
    Maybe we should rip out all the interior stores at Grand Central Terminal and blast 42nd and 43 Streets and Park Avenue back through that site? Would that satisfy your aesthetic vision? The difference between that drab little K Street mall you used to wrk by and the WTC site is that the latter, like Grand Central and not like K Street, sits atop two massive transit terminals. The real dynamism of New York City comes not from having automobile traffic run through every last square inch of the City, but in the combination of public transportation and private commerce. Weather protected retail at the new WTC will do just that.

  12. #327

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    Quote Originally Posted by NYguy
    I keep going back and forth on this. On the one hand, I would like the street open - not necessarily to traffic. I think you need street corners to fit in with the rest of the city. And then I can see the logic for wanting the enclosed space for the retail levels, similar to the WFC wintergarden.
    I agree. The open-street is the safer plan. An enclosed space can work, but I think it has to be carefully designed.

    The Wintergarden was poorly designed to integrate outside traffic, a flaw that will be magnified when Fulton St is connected to West St. With the overpass gone, there is no reason for that grand staircase that blocks the entryway.

    And comparisons to GCT do not address this concern:
    Quote Originally Posted by STREETLOVER
    I can see Church St. having one entrance into a mall and the remainder of the west side of the street being relatively barren.
    GCT does little to enhance the streetscape of Vanderbilt and E43rd.

    You can usually identify problem area by the absence of renderings. Church St will be fine in either plan. Even at the former WTC site, the Church St side was lively when the greenmarket was open. But what about Greenwich St? We have seen nothing. One side of the street is a large expanse of plaza with nothing much else in it.

    Of course it will be filled with tourists, but so is the South St Seaport.

  13. #328

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    New York is big enough to handle a little variety including a very short block leading basically to nowhere being covered over.

    I figure if London, Paris, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Sydney and the world's other great pedestrian cities can not only handle it but be enhanced by variety then New York can too. The slavishness to the street grid in all instances is ultimately parochial, limiting, and stunts creative thinking.

    Of course, if it is poorly done then it will suck for sure.

  14. #329

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    Quote Originally Posted by ZippyTheChimp
    You can usually identify problem area by the absence of renderings. Church St will be fine in either plan. Even at the former WTC site, the Church St side was lively when the greenmarket was open. But what about Greenwich St? We have seen nothing. One side of the street is a large expanse of plaza with nothing much else in it.

    Of course it will be filled with tourists, but so is the South St Seaport.
    The Greenwich Street side will be dead. There is nothing that can be done about it. The "family" activists have declared that any store fronting the memorial that sells underwear will be an insult to the victims of 9/11. No retailer in their right mind would subject themselves to that environment.

  15. #330

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    That is an argument against an enclosed mall, not for it.

    The problem is not the success of an enclosed space.That is almost guaranteed by the presenceof the hub. Even the original WTC mall, with its low-ceiling basement environment, was hugely successful.

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