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Thread: WTC Transit Hub - by Santiago Calatrava

  1. #3736

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    Vanity Fair
    March 2, 2016

    Beyond the Hype, Santiago Calatrava’s $4 Billion Transportation Hub Is a Genuine People’s Cathedral

    Despite its price tag and deference to commerce, the impact of the space and its crowning Oculus is undeniable, as Paul Goldberger writes.

    By Paul Goldberger


    By Go Nakamura/Redux.

    Everyone knows that the World Trade Center Transportation Hub, designed by Santiago Calatrava, was insanely expensive—close to $4 billion at last count—and everyone knows that its design is just a little bit hokey, as if it were assembled out of dinosaur bones that were too big to fit into the Museum of Natural History. What most people don’t know is that if you can get yourself past all of that, and manage to push the dinosaur metaphors and the bird metaphors and all of that money out of your mind, you can have an architectural experience there that may renew your faith in the potential of the public realm in New York.

    The Oculus, which is the name that has been given to the central space in Calatrava’s sprawling complex—the first sections of which open to the public on March 3 (the rest will open late this spring)—is the exhilarating nave of a genuine people’s cathedral. It is a room that soars; under a great arc of glass, Calatrava has put together curving ribs of steel to make a space that is uplifting, full of light and movement, and capable of inspiring something that has been in particularly short supply at Ground Zero, which is hope.


    Philip Johnson standing in the lobby of the David H. Koch Theater (formerly known as the Grand Promenade at the New York State Theater) in 1964. From A.P. Images.

    I’m not saying that to suggest that the Hub is a monument to the noblest ambitions of humankind. It is, after all, a train station bred to a shopping mall, and unlike Grand Central Terminal, where most of the shopping and restaurants are tucked into secondary spaces, at the World Trade Center the stores ring the monumental space. This place cost billions of dollars of public money, and it’s still a shrine to the commercial marketplace. I wish it were otherwise. But that doesn’t destroy the impact of the architecture, or negate the fact that this is the first time in a half a century that New York City has built a truly sumptuous interior space for the benefit of the public.

    The last room connected to transportation that equaled this in ambition was Eero Saarinen’s great TWA Terminal at Kennedy Airport, of 1962, a masterwork that has long inspired Calatrava and has directly influenced the form of several of his projects, including this one. In another way, however, the Oculus reminds me of an entirely different place, the last majestic public interior in New York—the Grand Promenade at the New York State Theater (now the David H. Koch Theater) at Lincoln Center, by Philip Johnson, of 1964. You can’t catch a train from there, but in some ways it’s more like Calatrava’s building than the place to which it is more often compared, Grand Central, since Johnson’s room, like Calatrava’s, is a deeply earnest attempt at civic grandeur that can seem to dance on the edge of garishness. The Grand Promenade is now one of New York’s most revered interior spaces, however, proving once again that yesterday’s vulgarity can become today’s landmark.

    For Johnson, the questionable excess came in the form of lots of glitter and glitz. For Calatrava, it is in the oceans of white Italian marble, not just covering the main space of the Oculus but also all of the long connecting corridors that lead to the train platforms, to the neighboring buildings in the World Trade Center complex, and even to the tunnel under West Street to the Brookfield Place complex. The grand space of the Oculus itself is but the tip of Calatrava’s white-marble iceberg, and while all of these long connecting passageways make for good urban design, like the similar ones that tie Grand Central to its neighbors, does there need to be quite so much bright, white marble?


    Inside Calatrava’s World Trade Center Transportation Hub. By Go Nakamura/Redux.

    But the real point is that in a city that has built few noble public works in the last half century—a city that in our time has rarely even aspired to grandeur in public space, let alone achieved it—this project stands as a reminder that we have not given up entirely. Yes, it was inordinately expensive, and all of that marble couldn’t have helped the bottom line, but most of the high cost was due to the extraordinary engineering challenges of weaving a train station for Path commuters from New Jersey under and around several active New York City subway lines and all of the other construction at Ground Zero, not to mention the fact that the client was one of the world’s most inordinately cumbersome bureaucracies, the Port Authority.

    Back when the 9/11 memorial opened a few years ago, I recall Michael Bloomberg saying something to the effect that people only complain about cost and delays when a project is underway; that once it is done, if it is any good, they forget all of that and pay attention to the thing itself. The Transportation Hub and its Oculus will put the Bloomberg Doctrine to a test, but I suspect it will pass, and that a couple of years from now, we will be hearing not about what this thing cost or about how long it took to build, but about how much people like walking through it. I certainly hope so, since nothing would be worse than to have it provoke a backlash against spending money on infrastructure. At a time when this country spends far less on public works than it should, the Hub is a rare exception to the trend. Its best legacy would be to encourage us to take more chances, and to recognize that investing in the public realm isn’t throwing away money. It is investing in the future, a gift from our generation to the ones that follow.

    © Condé Nast

  2. #3737
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    what a colossal and unforgivable waste of so many critical resources

  3. #3738

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    Quote Originally Posted by GordonGecko View Post
    what a colossal and unforgivable waste of so many critical resources
    I like the final product; it is lovely to look at - and hopefully functions well as a transportation hub. My take away is a concern about the current state of Architecture and construction practice in America: can we not make more accurate projections regarding the final cost of a given building project - as well as the time frame to completion.

    This is a waste of resources to some, and well worth the time/expense to others; those who are rightfully in the former camp deserved a right to opt out of this project - they were either mislead, or accidentally misinformed....

  4. #3739

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    What waste of $4 billion. Not so much that I think it bad looking, it just that it's not worth it for the functionality it creates. People keep talking about rebuilding the old Penn Station. I look at this, and know how stupid that idea would be.

  5. #3740

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    Quote Originally Posted by BBMW View Post
    What waste of $4 billion. Not so much that I think it bad looking, it just that it's not worth it for the functionality it creates. People keep talking about rebuilding the old Penn Station. I look at this, and know how stupid that idea would be.
    I don't follow this close enough to know much about how well this structure serves the needs for functionality: but if thing is all style and no substance - then we have sacrificed function, for the sake of form. Good design is more than an aesthetically pleasing outcome; the building needs to function well for its intended purpose.

    I look forward to any forthcoming reports on how well this building performs as a transportation hub: all I know at this point is that building is GORGEOUS ......

  6. #3741

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    What's not ever mentioned is how nearly every cost overrun for the entire WTC rebuild was funneled into this project. People also fail to mention that the three temporary PATH stations are also included in this budget. And lets not forget the demands by the city and politicians to both keep the 1 train tube and the train running, as well as opening the memorial on the 10th Anniversary - both of which added significant costs.

    People look at the Oculus and say "That thing is a waste of money!" But in reality, if it were a lame and boring old design there would still be outrageous cost overruns tied to the project.

  7. #3742
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    Quote Originally Posted by arcman210 View Post
    But in reality, if it were a lame and boring old design there would still be outrageous cost overruns tied to the project.
    No doubt, however a boring $700M would have ballooned to $1.5B, which is better than $4B any day of the week

    The problem around here is the unions and the government regulations that enable them

  8. #3743

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    Quote Originally Posted by arcman210 View Post
    What's not ever mentioned is how nearly every cost overrun for the entire WTC rebuild was funneled into this project. People also fail to mention that the three temporary PATH stations are also included in this budget. And lets not forget the demands by the city and politicians to both keep the 1 train tube and the train running, as well as opening the memorial on the 10th Anniversary - both of which added significant costs. .
    This is very good point. Further, you had to build a park above the Path Station, and complete it for the 10th anniversary, during the construction. This was a huge burden on the Path station. I have heard figures of over half a billion dollars were lost because the park had to be done. If NYC would have allowed further delays to the park costs would have been dramatically reduced. Instead, the park was finished for the 10 year anniversary at the expense of making the completion of the Path station much more complicated and costly.

    I think people need to keep in mind that even if you built the most bland and cheap Path station it still would have been extremely costly. And while the design added to the cost, the overruns were mainly due to having to build around the park, the 1 train, keeping trains running, and political bureaucracy.

  9. #3744

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    Quote Originally Posted by GordonGecko View Post
    No doubt, however a boring $700M would have ballooned to $1.5B, which is better than $4B any day of the week

    The problem around here is the unions and the government regulations that enable them
    The costs were specific to WTC rebuilding, so it isn't like a cheaper station would enable more financial resources to do anything else with the local transport network.

    On the whole, I'm happy with the station. We have a design that will be a landmark forever. No one will care about costs in a couple years.

  10. #3745
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    Quote Originally Posted by ASchwarz View Post
    No one will care about costs in a couple years.
    Actually they will care a lot when port authority crossing tolls hit $30

  11. #3746

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    I hadn't noticed it before, but the Oculus has a slight incline at street level. It is lower at Greenwich and higher at Church.

    In the photo below, one way to tell is that the second floor is level while the "elbows" above the railings ascend from left to right. A subtle but interesting detail.


    (Photo by joevare on Flickr)

  12. #3747

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    Quote Originally Posted by GordonGecko View Post
    Actually they will care a lot when port authority crossing tolls hit $30
    Most of the hub funding consisted of federal recovery grants, and had nothing to do with the Port Authority funding.

    If PA tolls hit $30 it has very little to do with WTC. The issue with the PA is mostly outrageous compensation/benefits, and not so much capitol projects.

  13. #3748

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    Looks like the skylight frame installation is now finished: https://www.instagram.com/p/BDG9TpsrX5O/

  14. #3749

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    Not yet... It looks like they are having some problems fitting those "pizza" panels at the end, they keep taking them off and putting them back.

  15. #3750
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    Quote Originally Posted by BigMac View Post
    Looks like the skylight frame installation is now finished:
    Hmm, don't know how I feel about that feature from the outside, adding a bit of a sports stadium look

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