To view 360-degree video, use Chrome or Firefox. (Sorry, Safari users.) If you're using a mobile device, click through to your YouTube app. Direct link here.
Downtown Manhattan got a new architectural landmark on Thursday.
Was it worth it? Well, that's a more complicated story. Architect Santiago Calatrava’s World Trade Center Transportation Hub opened with an afternoon ceremony to a trickle of commuters and a flood of controversy. (“Functionally vapid," a “boondoggle” that “wows rather than elevates” have been some of the harsher critiques.) The distinctive structure with wing-like ribs connects the PATH commuter trains from New Jersey to the New York subway system, as well as the trans-Hudson ferries. Total price tag: $4 billion.
“It’s a building that’s generated a lot of strong opinions,” said Sam Cochran, features editor of Architectural Digest, in an interview. “For people in the architecture world, the chorus has always been to reserve judgment. Would this be like Penn Station, a source of daily annoyance? Or would this be like Grand Central, a source of daily inspiration?”
When he visited the hub’s hall, which Calatrava has dubbed its Oculus, Cochran was pleasantly surprised. “Having seen the building, I think it’s going to be the latter,” he said.
Cochran's prediction seemed to bear out on the hub’s first day, when multiple visitors heaped praise on its interior.
“It’s very uplifting to see it finished,” said Andre Hurni, a retired architect, as he stood in the main hall. “I think it’s very successful, a grand entry to come here from New Jersey, to walk up the steps and see this space.” Marty Oppenheim, a retired disability-processing specialist for the Social Security Administration, was even more effusive. “Fabulous, it’s just fabulous,” he said. “It thrilled me when you walk in—the light, you just embrace it.”
Whatever your opinion of the hub’s soaring, skeletal architecture, you can't deny that this level of public attention for a commuter rail station/shopping mall is unprecedented.
Part of the scrutiny derives from its location on the corner of the the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. An additional source of intrigue is the 12-year-long project’s cost, which started at $2.2 billion before ballooning to the title of "most expensive train station, ever." (For context, the nearby, 104-story 1 World Trade Center is the tallest building in Manhattan, took seven years to build, and cost $100 million less than the hub did.)
“It’s a huge improvement over what was here before,” said Doug Burke, a retired court reporter who was visiting the hub on its first day. “But it sure ain’t worth 4 billion bucks.”
The building’s 50,000 daily commuters will soon have the chance to decide for themselves. Everyone else can check out the building with Bloomberg’s 360-degree video1, embedded above.