Seeing the Trade Center Galleria, in Natural LightNov 23, 2008
Since summer, daylight has bathed the galleria of the new World Trade Center, pouring through the five-and-a-half-foot intervals between its rounded steel arches and creating a modernist version of the ancient, roofless hypostyle halls of Egypt.
It is a vision that the architects never intended, since the galleria – an east-west passageway connecting the World Trade Center Transportation Hub to Battery Park City – is far below street level. Workers will soon lay down steel roof decking along 250 feet of the galleria, permanently cutting it off from the elements.
During the brief time it has been exposed to raking sunlight and softening clouds, the galleria has offered a life-size preview of the transportation hub itself – a preview that has surprised even the building’s chief architect, Santiago Calatrava.
“It is almost as if the building has an autonomous life,” Mr. Calatrava said Thursday. “The shadows and the so-called chiaroscuro, they are not sharp-cut. They are round, in a way. They’re very expressive. They’re very strong. But still, they preserve a softness.”
In other words, he’s pleased.
So is the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which is building the hub.
“Amazing,” said Christopher O. Ward, executive director of the authority, recalling his visits to the galleria, known formally as the east-west connector. He said the presence of one completed element of the hub helped insulate the project against radical revisions during the budget- and timetable-trimming process last summer.
“Here was a tangible moment of reality that neither skeptics nor naysayers nor even visionaries could point to until it was there,” Mr. Ward said. “It makes a huge difference.”
Besides linking the trade center site east to west, the galleria is also the underground demarcation between the 9/11 memorial and the commercial area. Its south wall, which abuts the memorial, will be clad in stone and “very austere,” Mr. Calatrava said. Along the north side of the galleria will be two levels of retail space. A line of columns runs along the passageway every 11 feet, with subsidiary arches between them, in five-and-a-half-foot intervals.
The whitish fireproof paint that has already been applied to the steel will be touched up before a finishing coat is applied, but the arches and columns look now much as they will when the $3.2 billion terminal complex is completed in 2013 or 2014. The arches were fabricated in Spain by Emesa and installed at the trade center by DCM Erectors.
Mr. Calatrava and his collaborators in the Downtown Design Partnership, the firms STV and DMJM Harris, planned the hub as a sculptural counterpoint to the hard-edged architecture around it.
But there is no computerized rendering sophisticated enough to truly convey what a building will feel like when it begins to take on a life of its own – not unlike a painting or other work of art.
“There is a sentence from Picasso,” Mr. Calatrava said. ” ‘La peinture’ ” – the painting – ” ‘is stronger than myself. She does with me whatever she wants.’ I like that very much.”