In Defense of Calatrava’s World Trade Center Hub

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Despite recent negativity surrounding its redesign, Santiago Calatrava’s transportation hub still glimmers, altered but unbesmirched, in a future that might actually come. A lot has changed since the day in 2003 when the architect sketched a dove’s wings on a pad for an audience of besotted journalists and beaming dignitaries. The budget has soared, the asymmetrical wings won’t move, daylight will no longer flow to subway platforms, and the proportions of glass and steel have gotten much less transparent. But what’s extraordinary about the latest iteration is not how much has been edited out but how intact Calatrava’s original vision has remained. Even late, clipped, and costly, the station achieves nearly everything we loved it for in the first place. It ennobles the commute. It turns the roof into a façade (since so many people in surrounding towers will look at it from above). Beneath its vast, ribbed vault, it creates a public place of sacramental grandeur. And it raises the ante for a future Moynihan station. More than ever, we should be celebrating the marriage of architecture and transit and urging a great city to build spectacle into its daily life. The transportation hub remains the new World Trade Center’s lone gesture of unpolluted democracy.

In this animated rendering, Calatrava's soaring vision comes to life. Click to watch.