Calatrava’s WTC Transit Hub Pared Down

August 05, 2008

By Sam Lubell

Santiago Calatrava’s design for a transit hub at the World Trade Center site in Manhattan has been scaled back. On July 1, shortly after revealing that virtually all of the construction projects at Ground Zero were behind schedule and over budget, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey announced it was cutting out a signature element of Calatrava’s elliptical-shaped building: a hydraulic system that would allow its ribbed steel wings to open and close. The operable roof was intended to allow natural light and air into the building. 

Calatrava's World Trade Center Transit Hub
Image courtesy Santiago Calatrava S.A. and Downtown Design Partnership
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The cost for the World Trade Center Transportation Hub has fluctuated between $2 billion and $3.5 billion. Port Authority executive director Christopher Ward said in an unusually blunt assessment of the situation at Ground Zero that the removal of the hydraulic system potentially saves hundreds of millions of dollars. In regards to modification, Ward said it’s “a tough choice, but it’s the right choice. And 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 intermediate milestones, to which we can be held accountable.”

The rest of the transit hub design remains intact for now, but according to a 34-page report to New York Governor David Paterson, other modifications are being considered, including replacing long-span arches in a mezzanine with “a more traditional, column-supported structural approach.”

Calatrava wasn’t surprised by the announcement. In a statement released by his firm, he said they are working with the developer to ensure the project is built, and “are continuing to work collaboratively to find potential changes that will save time and money while preserving the integrity of the original design.” The recent alteration, he says, “is just the latest example of many changes we have recommended to accomplish that goal.”

Look for more coverage of the status of World Trade Center projects in the September issue of RECORD.

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