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Winglike Design Unveiled for W.T.C. Transit Hub

January 22, 2004 By DAVID W. DUNLAP

There was darkness on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, the architect Santiago Calatrava would bring a flood of light in the form of a winged railway station, draped in glass, suffused with natural illumination and, on occasion, open to the clear skies above. Mr. Calatrava's design for the permanent World Trade Center PATH terminal — a soaring sculptural steel-and-glass shell covering a cathedral-like concourse and a network of passageways that would knit commuter trains, ferry boats, 14 subway lines and an entire swath of Lower Manhattan — was unveiled today to quick acclaim. "When you see the model, `Wow' is the first word that's just got to come to your mind," said Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. He joined in the unveiling with Gov. George E. Pataki and officials of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which will build the terminal. It may cost up to $2 billion and take five years to complete.

The PATH system (Port Authority Trans-Hudson) links New Jersey, through tubes under the Hudson River, to Lower Manhattan and Midtown. Some 67,000 commuters boarded PATH trains at the World Trade Center before the attack. Today, a temporary, open-air replacement station is used daily by about 30,000 travelers. The Port Authority estimates that ridership at the new terminal will eventually reach 80,000.

But in its aesthetics and logistics, Mr. Calatrava's design aspires to be far more than a commuter rail station, vital as that is to Lower Manhattan. Its admirers are already mentioning it in the same breath as the old Pennsylvania Station and Grand Central Terminal, which Mr. Calatrava claimed as his "deepest inspirational object."

Like the original Penn Station, the PATH terminal would bathe travelers in daylight, which would reach all the way to the train platforms 60 feet below ground through the use of glass-block floors above. And like Grand Central, it would serve as the hub of an underground network linking numerous subway stations and skyscrapers. But it would also do something neither of these buildings did: move.

Rather than relying on words alone, Mr. Calatrava took pastels to paper today on an easel set up in the Winter Garden of the World Financial Center at Battery Park City. He quickly sketched a child releasing a bird into the air, then superimposed that image on elevations and cross-sections of his terminal design. The theme of flight was set. Then he showed two counterpoised canopies over the main concourse, rising some 150 feet like skeletal birds' wings, that could be retracted hydraulically in about two minutes to create a tapered opening almost 50 feet wide at its center. This would ventilate smoke from the building in case of fire and provide natural air-conditioning.

"On a beautiful summer day," Mr. Calatrava said, "the building can work not as a greenhouse but as an open space." He also envisioned the symbolic power of opening the roof every year on the morning of Sept. 11, "giving us the sense of unprotection." "The building itself expresses the memory of Sept. 11," said Mr. Calatrava, 52, a Spanish architect, engineer and artist, who is widely admired for the lyrical quality of his bridges and train stations. Though he has a home on the Upper East Side, the PATH terminal would be Mr. Calatrava's first structure in New York City. (His partners in the design and engineering team are DMJM & Harris and the STV Group.)

The main axis of the 360-foot-long concourse would be aligned with the angle of the sun at 10:28 on the morning of Sept. 11, when the second World Trade Center tower collapsed. The angle of the canopies' outer edges would mark the line of the sun at 8:46 that morning, when the first jetliner hit the towers. An architectural expression of these angles was called for in the master site plan by Studio Daniel Libeskind. They formed the Wedge of Light plaza on either side of Fulton Street. In this plan, the PATH terminal was to be south of the plaza, in the approximate location of Dey Street, adjoining one of the planned office buildings.

Mr. Calatrava pulled the terminal northward, making it a freestanding structure surrounded by plazas, thereby reopening Dey Street. Because the terminal integrally expresses the Wedge of Light, its design won a warm endorsement from Mr. Libeskind, who has otherwise been struggling to preserve key elements of his year-old site plan. It was also embraced by Nikki Stern, whose husband, James E. Potorti of Marsh & McLennan, perished in the north tower. After calling up the images of Mr. Calatrava's design to the screen of her computer, she said her first reaction was — indeed — "Wow." "My second reaction was how beautifully it complements Daniel's plan," Ms. Stern said, "and how pleased I am that the Port Authority allowed Calatrava to create something that is respectful, yet so hopeful and functional."

That is not to say that difficult issues do not remain. Among them is the extent to which the new terminal will encroach on the footprints of the north and south towers, expressed as column footings that still remain at the bottom of the building foundations. Construction of the terminal will have to be coordinated with the design of the memorial, which calls for twin voids marking the towers' location, and with the Church Street office towers planned by Silverstein Properties. The PATH terminal would be flanked by 62- and 65-story skyscrapers.

Only three months ago, the $323 million temporary PATH station opened. A month later, the design of the 1,776-foot Freedom Tower was announced. And last week, the design of the memorial, "Reflecting Absence," was made public.

The permanent PATH terminal and its surrounding network of passageways carries the largest price tag of any of these projects: up to $2 billion, financed with $1.7 billion from the Federal Transit Administration and $300 million in insurance proceeds.

Governor Pataki seemed to anticipate criticism of the project as an extravagance when he summoned the memory of Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a champion of building a new Penn Station. Kent L. Barwick, the president of the Municipal Art Society, was in the audience at the Winter Garden. He said great train stations "are our temples, our cathedrals." Of the Calatrava design, he added, "This space has that potential." Just then, Robert L. Tierney, the chairman of the city Landmarks Preservation Commission, came up. "So, Kent, should we pre-emptively landmark this?" he asked. The terminal will not in fact be eligible until it turns 30 years old. But glancing over at the shimmering models nearby, Mr. Tierney said, "This will still be flying at that age."

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