By David W. Dunlap July 11, 2008 4:41 pm July 11, 2008 4:41 pm
The first prefabricated arches at the World Trade Center Transportation Hub have been installed. (Photo: David W. Dunlap/The New York Times) See the Slide Show
The first of the Calatrava curves have started to soften the spartan landscape of ground zero.
Since it was unveiled in 2004, the World Trade Center Transportation Hub by Santiago Calatrava and the Downtown Design Partnership has stood out among the redevelopment projects because of its sinuous forms, inside and out. Animate analogies come easily to mind. The exterior looks like a bird about to take flight. Or like the perfectly preserved skeleton of an abstract stegosaurus. Some interior spaces look almost as if one were floating through the rib cage of some gleaming gargantuan beast.
But these dreamlike possibilities existed only in small scale and two dimensions until Tuesday, when workers set the first of the contoured arches in place on columns lining what is to be the east-west underground connector between the transportation hub and the World Financial Center at Battery Park City. The effect was striking. And surprising.
The arches are prefabricated off site and covered in a fire-retardant paint. At the site, they are set atop rounded steel columns. All told, 47 of them will be installed along the underground connector. This pedestrian passageway, under Fulton Street, will be lined with stores on the north side and a solid wall on the south side that abuts the memorial museum.
It is unclear today just how many of Mr. Calatrava’s undulating ceilings will survive the re-engineering that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey must undertake to bring the project into line with its $2.5 billion budget. But it can now be said for certain that the new World Trade Center, having gone through many twists, will have at least several dozen curves.
The original Calatrava design was really breathtaking and would have been such a breakthrough in respect to existing NYC transit architecture, but the cutbacks have eliminated so many of the unique elements. The open roof and the glass floors that would have allowed natural daylight to the trains below would have been such a fresh change. Its sad to see how poor management has forced the best features to be eliminated. Nonetheless, I can’t wait to see the finished structure and it will still be a move in the right direction.