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N.Y. / Region|Design of Ground Zero Transit Hub Is Trimmed

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N.Y. / Region

Design of Ground Zero Transit Hub Is Trimmed

By DAVID W. DUNLAPJULY 2, 2008

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It was to be an audacious gesture in an already daring design. As envisioned by the architect Santiago Calatrava, the enormous wings forming the roof of the main hall at the World Trade Center transportation hub were to swing open to the sky, when the weather was delightful or — each Sept. 11 — when the mood was somber.

“On a beautiful summer day,” Mr. Calatrava said in 2004, “the building can work not as a greenhouse but as an open space.” And on the anniversary of the terrorist attacks, he said, the rooftop could open again, “giving us the sense of unprotection.”

Though the idea of a building in movement seems startling, this would not have been the first kinetic work by Mr. Calatrava. The winglike sunscreen at the Milwaukee Art Museum opens and closes twice daily, and has become a civic attraction in its own right.

But the wings at the trade center site were stilled on Tuesday, as officials began to reckon with budgets and timetables that they now concede are well beyond earlier estimates.

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The roof “will no longer open and close,” said Christopher O. Ward, the executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which is building the hub. “This is a tough choice, but it is the right choice,” he said. “It’s reflective of the kinds of choices we simply must make in the coming weeks and months if we are to establish priorities and milestones, to which we can be held accountable.”

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However, Mr. Ward said that a gap would be retained between the north and south roof segments, on the long axis — or spine — of the lens-shaped hall. This gap might be up to 12 feet wide. Glass panels within the gap would ordinarily protect the interior from cold, rain and snow. These panels could be retracted in good weather, on the Sept. 11 anniversaries and also to let smoke escape, if needed.

Photo The wings of Santiago Calatrava’s PATH terminal were meant to be retractable, but officials decided to leave them immobile. Credit Port Authority of New York and New Jersey

“The spine will remain as an opening,” Mr. Ward said. “There will be the same sense of light and air and escape.”

He said time and money would be saved by not having to engineer the wings to account for changing weight distribution. Scrapping the idea would also eliminate the problem of the south wing coming within three or four feet of Tower 3, one of the office buildings being developed by Silverstein Properties. “God forbid something failed,” Mr. Ward said.

Mr. Calatrava issued a statement saying the revision was “just the latest example of many changes we have recommended” to save time and money “while preserving the integrity of the original design.”

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On Monday, the authority issued a report listing problems with the trade center redevelopment, saying, “The schedule and cost for each of the public projects on the site face significant delays and cost overruns.” It did not specify new budgets or timetables.

The authority is building the transportation hub, through which PATH commuters, subway riders and pedestrians will stream one day.

Given financing limits, the authority must find ways to build the hub for no more than $2.5 billion. Though officials have insisted that the hub’s signature features would be retained, subtle and not-so-subtle changes have already been made, some that are arguably more significant than opening and closing roof wings. For instance, the underground mezzanine was originally to be illuminated with skylights set in the pavement of the memorial plaza above. That arrangement, which far more directly affects the experience of daily commuters, was quietly scrapped in recent months.

As the design is further modified — some might say whittled away — another possibility is that more of the existing PATH terminal will be used than was originally planned.

Correction: July 7, 2008

An article on Wednesday about the scaling back of the architect Santiago Calatrava’s design for the transportation hub at ground zero misstated the name of the museum that he designed in Milwaukee. It is the Milwaukee Art Museum, not the Milwaukee Museum of Art.

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page B1 of the New York edition with the headline: Design of Ground Zero Transit Hub Is Trimmed. Order Reprints| Today's Paper|Subscribe

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