Calatrava’s dinosaur


Santiago Calatrava’s Oculus at Ground Zero, in Lower Manhattan. (Hilary Swift/NYT)

Next week, starchitect Santiago Calatrava’s dinosaur of a transportation hub will open at Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan. The cost, mostly in federal dollars, was $4 billion for the station and its Oculus, a sculptural – or, really, sepulchral – public space. It looks like a dinosaur skeleton. Weren’t the bones supposed to open and close or flap or something? Well, that bit ended up on the cutting room floor. What we got was a replacement for the transit hub destroyed on 9/11 – a necessary investment, one must suppose – plus a shopping mall. Just what New Yorkers were demanding!

Today the New York Times published a silly bit of fluff, perhaps intended to sooth the hurt feelings of Calatrava, a Spaniard, and others involved in the massive boondoggle. New York decided to spend not a nickel to celebrate the PATH center’s public opening, so ace Timesman David Dunlap was sent in to fill as many column inches as he could (“Oculus, Centerpiece of Transit Hub and Selfie Magnet, Is Set to Open“) with hosannahs. For instance:

Say this about the Oculus: It is breathtaking from the inside — luminous, intricate, uplifting and tranquil. Photos of it resemble idealized architectural renderings.

It had better be! Dunlap assures readers that the Oculus will be “selfie central,” and that it will be compared with Grand Central Terminal. Yes and no, methinks. It may be selfie central but it bears no comparison to Grand Central. Whole different kettle of fish. (I was startled to read, in Dunlap’s article,  that while entering this public space is free, entering the museum at Ground Zero costs a family of four $179. C’mon now. Can that be true?)

But don’t miss “How Cost of Train Station at World Trade Center Swelled to $4 billion,” also by Dunlap. The photo from above the Oculus automatically turns into an excellent series of time-lapse photos of Calatrava’s extravaganza in construction. That’s the only dance the public will get to see it perform. So it’s worth the effort to click the link to watch it happen. Otherwise, it is doomed to sit there like a fossil.

Accompanying the NYT graphics is Dunlap’s catalogue of blunders that  doubled the cost and stretched construction beyond the completion date by seven years. Read it if you dare. It will curl your toenails even faster than the time-lapse photos can speed the arrival of the facility’s erection.

Screen Shot 2016-02-24 at 7.06.18 PM.png

Screen shot of Oculus from David Dunlap’s NYT story today.

About David Brussat

This blog was begun in 2009 as a feature of the Providence Journal, where I was on the editorial board and wrote a weekly column of architecture criticism for three decades. Architecture Here and There fights the style wars for classical architecture and against modern architecture, no holds barred. History Press asked me to write and in August 2017 published my first book, "Lost Providence." I am now writing my second book. My freelance writing on architecture and other topics addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a member of the board of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which bestowed an Arthur Ross Award on me in 2002. I work from Providence, R.I., where I live with my wife Victoria, my son Billy and our cat Gato. If you would like to employ my writing and editing to improve your work, please email me at my consultancy,, or call 401.351.0457. Testimonial: "Your work is so wonderful - you now enter my mind and write what I would have written." - Nikos Salingaros, mathematician at the University of Texas, architectural theorist and author of many books.
This entry was posted in Architects, Architecture, Art and design, Development, Urbanism and planning and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Calatrava’s dinosaur

  1. Pingback: Dupre’s 1 WTC on 9/11’s 15th | Architecture Here and There

  2. Pingback: Hillary Clinton wins by wide margin in South Carolina | Web02003

  3. Pingback: Nueva York inaugura su estación de Calatrava | Ciudades, arte y gastronomía

  4. i like your article, very inspiring, and thank you for your post


  5. I don’t know, Cindy. No need for Selfie Central? Tell it to the Donald!


  6. Thanks for this, David, I was wondering what they were up to when we visited the 9/11 Museum last summer. Might I add, there is no need in this life or the next for “Selfie Central.”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.