The long-anticipated WTC Transportation Hub designed by Santiago Calatrava had a “soft” opening at the beginning of March. Shoe-horned next to the WTC Memorial, the Hub’s steel wingspan has loomed over the active construction site for years, promising big things to come. In fact, the opening was so low-keyed that the main entrance was still unfinished and signs showing how to enter were non-existent. The building itself is surrounded by cyclone fencing with no obvious way of getting inside. Ask a stranger how to enter, and the only response was “I don’t know, but I know it cost $4 billion!”
Yes, that’s right. Seven years after its scheduled opening and $2 billion over budget, the Oculus as the central space is to be known, is still incomplete. It succeeds the PATH station and the shopping center that was underneath the original towers. For all its grandeur, it is a mall and a subway station, and only the 18th busiest at that, serving 50,000 weekday riders who travel between New Jersey and New York City.
Soon, we are promised, we’ll be able to enter directly from the street or through underground passages that feed the new office buildings and the major subway hub at Fulton Center, one block away. This will be the final leg in connecting many subway lines in the City.
The Oculus is a general public space that will be filled with stores and also used for events. Its soaring height is meant to impress and it does. At this point, criticism has been muted, and centers on the question of how long its marble and painted steel will remain so clean and unrelentingly white.
ps—you enter from office building entrances blocks away from the Hub.
all photos: Carol Berens