Beyond the Hype, Santiago Calatrava’s $4 Billion Transportation Hub Is a Genuine People’s Cathedral


Beyond the hype, santiago calatrava’s $4 billion transportation hub is a genuine people’s cathedral

Despite its price tag and deference to commerce, the impact of the space and its crowning Oculus is undeniable, as Paul Goldberger writes

Everyone knows that the World Trade Center Transportation Hub, designed by Santiago Calatrava, was insanely expensive—close to $4 billion at last count—and everyone knows that its design is just a little bit hokey, as if it were assembled out of dinosaur bones that were too big to fit into the Museum of Natural History. What most people don’t know is that if you can get yourself past all of that, and manage to push the dinosaur metaphors and the bird metaphors and all of that money out of your mind, you can have an architectural experience there that may renew your faith in the potential of the public realm in New York.

The Oculus, which is the name that has been given to the central space in Calatrava’s sprawling complex—the first sections of which open to the public on March 3 (the rest will open late this spring)—is the exhilarating nave of a genuine people’s cathedral. It is a room that soars; under a great arc of glass, Calatrava has put together curving ribs of steel to make a space that is uplifting, full of light and movement, and capable of inspiring something that has been in particularly short supply at Ground Zero, which is hope. […]