The organic form of Calatrava’s spectacular structure emerges from its sunken oculus at Ground Zero.
Internationally renowned architect Santiago Calatrava has established his acclaim with breathtaking feats of engineering supporting organic skeletal building forms. His celebrated structures include bridges, museums and perhaps most notably, transportation facilities.
Among his latest undertakings is the Transportation Hub at Ground Zero in New York City. At the present stage of construction, this project is slowly emerging from its below-grade foundations. This creation will add a unique element to the Ground Zero re-construction. For millions of visitors, the soaring work will be the entrance to the Memorial and to historic and hallowed grounds. Calatrava’s conception utilizes his trademark display of organic structural components. Universally reminiscent of animal bones, the soaring asymmetric composition also evokes a primitive bird-like creature. It is however the enormous scale of this endeavor that pioneers new challenges for the Spanish architect.
A giant concourse, mezzanine and platform will be enclosed column-free by the arching ribs. Copious daylight will enter through glazing placed between these white bones.
The ambitious project will connect Hudson River ferry terminals, PATH trains, 13 subway lines, and possibly a direct rail link to JFK International Airport. Projected cost (already hundreds of millions over budget) is $3.2 billion. The project is badly behind schedule; completion is presently anticipated in 2014.
“The building is built with steel, glass, and light. They will all be equal building materials.”
More about the World Trade Center Transportation Hub:
The site of the Hub construction is at the lower left of the first webcam image.
Criticism and Comparison:
The WTC Transportation Hub will introduce a new design language into the heart of New York’s architectural legacy. Exciting as it may be, Calatrava’s sculptural creation will stand unrelated to prior traditions of the site. The site is an urban one; perhaps the most urban location of all sites throughout the world. Yet the Hub’s design speaks an organic language which relates more to nature than to the historic context of straight edges and grid geometries. Does the exquisite beauty of this piece outweigh its possibly inappropriate contextual placement?
A final comparison: The Air Force Academy Chapel in Colorado Springs (left) was built two generations ago by Robert E. McKee of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Numerous differences notwithstanding, does this structure foreshadow some of the architectural concepts of Calatrava’s Hub? As with the Hub, daylight at the Air Force Chapel filters between opposing spike-shaped structural members. The structural concepts of both buildings relate metaphorically to motion and velocity.