The naming of James Carpenter as collaborating artist for the building of the Fulton Street Transit Center in Lower Manhattan is a measure of New York State's aspirations.
Mr. Carpenter, 54, whose work includes the astonishingly transparent cable-net glass wall at the new Time Warner Center on Columbus Circle, was awarded a $340,000 contract by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority last week to join the architectural and engineering team working on the transit center, which is to be completed in 2007.
Nicholas Grimshaw & Partners of London and Lee Harris Pomeroy Associates of Manhattan are the architects, working with Arup, an international engineering concern. Mr. Grimshaw designed the Waterloo International Terminal in London for the Eurostar trains to Paris.
Mr. Carpenter and his 11-member TriBeCa studio, James Carpenter Design Associates, are also responsible for a second important downtown commission: a reflective, multilayered, stainless-steel screen that will enfold the Consolidated Edison substation at the base of 7 World Trade Center, now under construction across Vesey Street from ground zero.
The design of the $750 million Fulton Street Transit Center is expected to be unveiled in about a month. The centerpiece is to be an airy transit hall at Broadway and Fulton Street that is meant to help bring some visual unity and order to an unruly tangle of subway stations serving the A, C, J, M, Z, 2, 3, 4 and 5 lines. It would also be connected by a concourse under Dey Street to the World Trade Center PATH terminal.
Not that the M.T.A. would say so, but Fulton Street gives the authority a chance to show off architecturally, in the wake of the fairly ecstatic critical reception accorded the PATH terminal design by Santiago Calatrava, DMJM & Harris, and STV.
Mr. Carpenter's involvement telegraphs a structure that would involve a lot of glass and other bright materials, perhaps arrayed prismatically to send light rays shooting through the structure. In other words: not your father's subway station.
"The goal is to affect one's experience of place, by creating these stunning properties of light," Mr. Carpenter said. Sandra Bloodworth, director of the Arts for Transit program at the M.T.A. and one of the panelists who chose Mr. Carpenter, said he "brings to the table a sense of light and a sense of space that complements the work of the architects." More than 200 artists applied, she said.
His work is concerned with "how light moves across a space, the way it refracts and the way it reflects to create an atmosphere and environment that can be, at times, magical," Ms. Bloodworth added. Neither she nor Mr. Carpenter would divulge specifics about the design of the center. Because the artwork is still under development, the cost has yet to be determined.
The architecture of the transit hall is to provide an above-ground landmark that will help travelers find what is now a gopher-hole collection of subway entrances. And it is to offer arriving passengers a chance to orient themselves, by looking through the hall to nearby landmarks like St. Paul's Chapel. The transit center will also incorporate the 115-year-old Corbin Building on the corner of John Street.
Mr. Carpenter has worked with Skidmore, Owings & Merrill on the Time Warner Center and 7 World Trade Center projects, which treat light in different ways.
The point of the 149-foot-high cable-net glass wall at the Time Warner Center is to be as transparent as possible. Shoppers coming up the escalators from Whole Foods may feel at times as if they were headed straight outdoors, while those looking across the atrium from the balconies may have the sense that the Columbus Monument has been moved indoors.
By contrast 7 World Trade Center involves a most untransparent concrete base for the Con Ed substation. (The office tower is rising above that base.) To give this massive structure a sense of lightness, Mr. Carpenter has designed a two-layered stainless-steel wall, with panels made of prismatic wires set at different angles so that alternating facets reflect different parts of the sky. At night the cavity between the layers will be illuminated with fixtures that can change pattern constantly.
One project that may presage elements of the transit center is his "Suspended Glass Tower" of 1997 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center, a 64-foot-high cylindrical sculpture made of semitransparent glass triangles.