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    WTC transit hub design steeled, yet still light


World-renowned architect Santiago Calatrava unveiled a modified design hardened for security reasons of the planned World Trade Center transit hub for downtown Manhattan to the Port Authority board Thursday.

The $2.22-billion hub will keep its iconic birdlike "wings" but twice as many steel beams at the base have been added since Calatrava first unveiled his concept a year and a half ago. In addition, some of the glass that adorned the wings of the structure has been removed but glass remains on the "ribs" to allow light to come through. The station's shape has been compared to an armadillo, a fish skeleton, a winged dinosaur and many other creatures with its comblike needles jutting out into the sky. But critically, the design has won much praise in helping to restore lower Manhattan's center of transportation and commerce.

Calatrava himself said he was inspired by the crown of the Statue of Liberty in designing the shape of the building. The revised terminal is just a little narrower at the base (now 330 feet instead of 360 feet) and is as high as 150 feet from the sidewalk. Calatrava stressed that his vision for the site has not changed, but that he has just made some modifications to address engineering, security and feasibility issues. The design is meant to express how Sept. 11 "changed the life of the city, the lives of many people, the life of the nation," Calatrava told the Port Authority board. He also hoped to hang the American flag recovered from the ashes of Ground Zero in the center of the concourse.

Slated to open in December 2009, the hub will have up to 200,000 square feet of retail space and will serve as a gateway for several subway lines as well as the PATH trains and will eventually connect to the planned $6-billion JFK rail link via the Long Island Rail Road.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey also approved spending $221 million for the center, clearing the way for a post-Labor Day groundbreaking on Sept. 6. The rest of the $1.9 billion for the estimated cost will come from the Federal Transit Authority.

The hub's ceiling has been designed to open to the sky using hydraulic motors on Sept. 11 and on other days the Port Authority designates. That feature is similar to Calatrava's design for the Milwaukee Art Museum, which "flaps" its wings every day at noon. "He is an architect and engineer but he is truly an artist," said Port Authority president Ken Ringler.

Copyright © 2005, Newsday, Inc.,0,1291410.story

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