Thursday, March 3, 2016

Oh Snap! The Gray Lady Disses Calatrava Transit Hub in Downtown NYC

The Calatrava transit hub under construction. Click for photo credit.
If you have been near downtown New York near the renovated World Trade Center area, you certainly have seen the construction for the new World Trade Center Transit Hub. Many people think it is the 911 Museum since it, along with the soaring new tower, dominate the viewshed of the area. However, it is a humble, 4 billion dollar transit hub. The museum, which was criticized for its expense, had a price tag of 700 million. The new East Side subway line is expected to cost about 17 billion for an 8.5 mile line. One can understand why the New York Times today is calling the station a "Soaring Symbol of a Boondoggle" as it opens this month.

Of course, the cost is due to the unique structure designed by noted architect Santiago Calatrava. His work is lovely. I am most familiar with his spectacular approach for the Milwaukee Art Museum, which resembles a yacht (housing an impressive collection of modern art) heading out to enjoy a day of sailing on Lake Michigan.

The Calatrava piece in downtown New York is eye catching, but the Times article is worth a read. For my part, I am wondering how in the world the city will keep the hub looking clean. Calatrava is known for using all white in his structures. New York subway stations can be kindly called gritty, and unkindly called dirty rat infested post apocalyptic dungeons. How does a sparkling Calatrava masterpiece fit into this aesthetic?

Plus, one cannot help but comment on the 4 billion dollar cost of the station at a time when there is considerable discussion on income inequality in the city. Aren't there some local architects that could have done a good job at a fraction of the cost? I think New York might have a few. Is it any surprise in our current era that the Wall Street/World Trade Center area gets a 4 billion dollar station built with public money while many lower income areas of the city have limited access to the subway or have stations that need some serious steam cleaning and renovation?

Nevertheless, the Calatrava station is a new exciting landmark for New York and I can guarantee that the New York Times will be writing about it for years to come.


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