In hiring Santiago Calatrava to design the new transit hub at the World Trade Center, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey thought large. And in his first public words about the project, Mr. Calatrava made it clear that he, too, would think large — on the scale of Grand Central Terminal and Pennsylvania Station. Old Pennsylvania Station.
"Those places are gates to the city," he said in an interview on Monday, 10 days after signing a contract to design the $2 billion transit center, in partnership with the STV Group and DMJM & Harris. "New York City has a tradition of great stations. There are cities in the world that don't have that. New York has it."
While short on specifics, Mr. Calatrava described a structure that would have "the most universal character" of any at the site, something above and beyond a PATH terminal, though that function will be at its core. He envisions a civic gathering place that would be open 24 hours a day, pulsing with life and movement, sending people out into the city, greeting travelers from the airport, discharging commuters to nearby ferries and even sheltering visitors from the rain.
"Of all the buildings, this is more devoted to the everyday person," said Mr. Calatrava, 52, a Spanish citizen who lives part-time in Manhattan and sometimes walks through Grand Central just for the pleasure of it.
He deflected speculation about what the PATH terminal might look like, an inevitable question since his designs are renowned for sinuous curves, abstract monumentality and sometimes anthropomorphic or zoomorphic forms. Because his buildings also tend to resemble freestanding sculptures, it would be perilous to guess how successfully Mr. Calatrava can cope with constriction.
"This station will be different than anything else I've done," he said. "I don't remember having had to work in such a dense, dense core of a city."
Asked whether his fluid and flowing style might be incongruent with the more crystalline forms of the master plan for the trade center site by Studio Daniel Libeskind, Mr. Calatrava said: "We will certainly work within the master plan. But you see, if you look at the city, it's always done from incongruence. Particularly New York illustrates that, more than any other city." For his part, Mr. Libeskind welcomed Mr. Calatrava. "I think he will bring in a very good dimension," he said yesterday. "There is plenty of capacity for expression in this station."
No matter how the design turns out, the terminal will be the architectural face that the new trade center presents to most New Yorkers, since it will be on Church Street, closer to the spine of Broadway and landmarks like the New York Stock Exchange. Freedom Tower and the memorial, by contrast, will be on the west side of the 16-acre site. And the office towers planned on Church Street may be many years distant.
Construction on the terminal could begin late next year or early in 2005, according to a draft document that is part of the environmental review, at the same spot where the temporary station stands now. Underground levels would be finished by the end of 2006, with the main terminal building and pedestrian network completed between 2007 and 2009.
The temporary station, designed by Robert I. Davidson of the Port Authority, is to open next month.
At the moment, the design team is studying transportation demands that may exist in 25 years to ensure that the terminal is flexible enough, said Dominick M. Servedio, the chairman and chief executive of STV Group. His firm, Mr. Calatrava and DMJM & Harris are allied as the Downtown Design Partnership, which has a $19.2 million contract from the authority. The project is being financed by the Federal Transit Administration and from insurance proceeds.
Mr. Servedio said the Downtown Design Partnership, the Port Authority and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority had been in a "dialogue" about the relation of the PATH terminal to the Fulton Street Transit Center, being designed by Nicholas Grimshaw & Partners and Ove Arup & Partners.
What is known about the trade center project is that it will include four passenger platforms for 10-car trains (the same length as those that existed before the attack), a vast mezzanine, lower and upper concourses and a street-level building, presumably under glass, with retail space.
There will be pedestrian passageways to the 1 and 9 subway station, the World Financial Center, the Fulton Street Transit Center, Liberty Plaza and other buildings on the trade center site.
"We have a goal to fulfill," Mr. Calatrava said, "creating interior spaces of high quality, welcoming people, having them get immediately in touch with the light, giving them from the moment in which they are on the platform the feeling they are in ground zero, they are arriving in the city."
"The sequence of spaces will be one of the most interesting things to explore," he said. Although the mezzanine is underground, Mr. Calatrava said he hoped a way might be found to bring daylight and views into the space.
Madelyn Wils, the chairwoman of Community Board 1 in Lower Manhattan, applauded Mr. Calatrava's ambitious vision — to a point.
"It's certainly wonderful that he wants to create the best possible indoor space," she said yesterday. "Obviously, we want to be as creative and visionary as possible. But we also want street life. We don't want to internalize the civic audience too much. We want them to be on the streets, shopping, visiting other parts of the area."
Though none of Mr. Calatrava's other stations are precisely analogous to the PATH terminal, he said his designs for the Lyon Airport Station and the Orient Station in Lisbon embodied the kind of monumentality that might be appropriate. The Stadelhofen Station in Zurich exemplifies integration into an existing context, he said, and the Liège-Guillemins TGV Station in Liège, Belgium, shows how stations can play a role in economic regeneration.
The only New York City project that Mr. Calatrava has yet completed is the five-foot, stainless-steel New York Times Capsule, installed outside the American Museum of Natural History in 2001 and not to be opened until 3000.
Five years ago, he was part of a team with Beyer Blinder Belle that bid unsuccessfully on a new concourse and ticketing area for Pennsylvania Station within the landmark General Post Office on Eighth Avenue.
"He really is the modern descendant in the great tradition of architect-engineers like Robert Maillart, Pier Luigi Nervi and Isambard Kingdom Brunel," said John Belle, when asked yesterday how he had come to choose Mr. Calatrava.
Nervi, who designed the George Washington Bridge Bus Station of 1963 for the Port Authority, is a hero of Mr. Calatrava's. So is Eero Saarinen, whose Trans World Airlines Flight Center of 1962 at Kennedy Airport may be revived as part of a new terminal being planned by JetBlue Airways and the Port Authority.
"It puts us in a tradition of the Port Authority as a client of grand buildings," Mr. Calatrava said.