On the outside it flutters like the wings of a bird; on the inside it soars like a cathedral.
New York is New York, where commerce and public services come together, sometimes with stellar results. This is no more evident than at the World Trade Centre where the cathedral-like “Oculus” designed by Santiago Calatrava is both a public transit station and the heart of a commercial shopping centre by the Australian company Westfield. If this is the sort of architecture that results then such partnerships are to be encouraged.
Work is still continuing with new buildings to complete the renewal of New York’s World Trade Centre. The “Oculus” at the heart is, according to the architect, designed to resemble a bird being released from a child’s hand.
It has had a difficult journey from the original design to the final construction and opening in March 2016. Daniel Libeskind’s masterplan envisaged a smaller station left open to the skies, forming a “wedge of light” so that the sun’s rays at the autumn equinox would hit the footprint of the World Trade Centre each year. The Port Authority enlarged the transport brief to create a major modern terminus which would rival others in New York such as Grand Central Station, while Calatrava’s original designs were scaled back to save money and because of security issues that impacted on the construction. Looking from the outside, the design has lost some of its elegance, though internally the final result is still an impressive soaring structure oversailing the complex series of spaces and circulation routes below – an inspirational transport space where architecture and engineering combine for the 21st century.