View from above
View from the South
On an oversized sketchpad, famed Spanish architect Santiago
Calatrava drew a sketch of pair of children's hands
releasing a bird into the air. This image, he told the
audience who had gathered to see him at the Winter
Garden on January 22, was the root of his plan for a
permanent train station at Ground Zero. He then grabbed
another marker and, over his previous drawing, drew the
design that many are already referring to as downtown's
Grand Central – an oval of glass and steel with wings
rising from its spine.
This, in broad strokes, was the third major piece of
architecture for Ground Zero to be presented to the
public in the last two months, and part of yet another
extravagant "unveiling." The previous
ceremonies, for the freedom
tower and the memorial,
have inspired intense anticipation, attracted large
crowds, and received mixed reviews. While the
presentation for Ground Zero's train station drew fewer
people and less emotion, those in attendance seemed
Construction for the station, for the Port Authority
Trans Hudson or PATH train, is expected to begin next
year. It will begin carrying riders in 2006, and will be
completed by 2009. The cost of the station is about $2
billion, much of that coming from federal money
earmarked for Lower Manhattan transportation after 9/11.
Calatrava said that the main intention of his design
was to "use light as a construction material."
The steel, concrete and glass pavilion at ground level
is essentially a skylight for the station's lower
levels, allowing daylight to travel 60 feet straight
down to the tracks below.
By creating covered areas around the station, the
block-long, 150 foot-tall wings serve to protect
visitors from wind and rain. On more favorable days, the
roof retracts, a sort of train-station-skydome that
opens the station to fresh air.
The large wings are the station's most striking
visual feature. But Calatrava intends the roof of the
PATH station to be more than a grand architectural
gesture; it serves practical purposes as well. A
building that relies on the sun for much of its light
needs to use less energy from other sources, he said,
and a retractable roof offers safety in the case of
Calatrava is best known for applying this kind of
expressive architecture to bridges and train stations.
When the Port Authority chose Calatrava, along with
architectural-engineering firms DMJM + Harris and STV
Group, Inc., to build the station at Ground Zero in July
2003, Herbert Muschamp of the New York Times proclaimed
that Calatrava was "the world’s greatest living
poet of transportation architecture…Long before the
word 'infrastructure' had entered the lexicon of
contemporary architecture, Mr. Calatrava had taken this
genre of design to the level of genius."
In contrast to the Memorial and the Freedom Tower,
which have departed in many ways from Daniel
Libeskind’s master plan for the site, Calatrava’s
station uses one of the major elements of the plan as a
starting point for its own design. The wings that run
the length of station frame the "wedge
of light," a public space envisioned by
Libeskind that is designed to have no shadows on
September 11 of each year from 8:46 a.m., when the first
tower collapsed, to 10:28 a.m., when the second fell,
accenting further this element of the original master.
"This is how architecture develops out of master
plan," said Mark Ginsberg, president of the New
York Chapter of the American
Institute of Architects. "The master plan had
this strong idea of the wedge of light. Calatrava took
that and used it to in certain ways generate his
building, making something that is a wonderful
sculptural element and an icon in the city and for the
site, but also by in some ways modifying the ideas of
the master plan strengthening [it]."
The station will eventually connect to the Fulton
Street subway station, which is currently being
renovated by the Metropolitan Transit Authority in a
plan that will be presented to the public this spring.
In all, 14 subway lines will be accessible from the
station, which will also connect to ferry service and
airport rails. It will also include pedestrian access to
the World Financial Center. Many hope that it will serve
as the centerpiece for a regional system of
transportation that will rejuvenate downtown Manhattan.
"Much as the rehabilitation of Grand Central
Terminal has sparked the revitalization of midtown, the
restoration and enhancement of Lower Manhattan's
transportation system will accelerate the economic
recovery of the nation's third largest business
district," said Port Authority vice chairman
Charles Gargano at the unveiling.
Calatrava's building was being referred to as the
Grand Central's downtown equivalent long before his
sketches were made public. Now Calatrava himself has
reaffirmed this hope. He referred to the midtown station
as the "most beautiful public hall of any station
in the world," adding that it was probably the
"deepest inspiration" for his design.
Interior, with roof closed (left) and open (right)