The New York Post has a great scoop
today about the new Santiago Calatrava PATH station at Ground Zero. Unfortunately,
the Post spins the story as being about Libeskind’s Wedge of Light: the headline
is "PATH Plan May Dim Libeskind’s Tribute". Of course, it won’t, and
as the story goes on to say, Libeskind considers the Calatrava design to fit
perfectly into his master plan.
According to the Post, the Calatrava plan moves the new PATH station north
a little bit from where Libeskind had it. That does two things, one minor and
one major. The minor change – which the Post fixates on – is that
the Wedge of Light becomes a little bit smaller. But the Wedge of Light was
never about internal area: it was always about the angles of the walls abutting
Fulton Street. The angles, we can safely assume, remain intact.
The real story here, the major development, is that Calatrava has resuscitated
Dey Street. Under the original Libeskind site plan, Dey stopped at Church Street,
right where it ends today. Post-Calatrava, however, it continues all the way
on to Greenwich Street, as a pedestrian promenade. As ever, the more streets
the better, so this is officially a Good Thing.
Interestingly, as the designer of the first major public building on the site,
Calatrava has managed to do wonders for the commercial building next door. Now
that it has a north-facing street frontage opposite the station, the tower between
Dey, Church, Greenwich and Cortlandt can have shops on all four streets, including
the most-trafficked side of all. Critics of the WTC redesign often play up the
conflict between good public spaces and profitable commercial buildings; in
this case, what benefits one also benefits the other.
Meanwhile, it looks increasingly as though Cortlandt Street, which Libeskind
had as a pedestrian promenade between Church and Greenwich, is going to be upgraded
to something which can accommodate cars. (Just because it can have
cars doesn’t mean it will, of course.) The office buildings planned
for the WTC site are all going to be grade-A towers, full of lawyers, bankers
and the like. Such tenants nearly always want a fleet of Town Cars at their
disposal at all times, and those cars need to line up somewhere; Cortlandt Street
seems as good a place as any. It’s entirely possible, of course, that Cortlandt
will be closed to all but fleet traffic.
The real thing to get excited about here is the prospect of genuine street
life within the WTC site. Greenwich and Fulton streets were always going to
be major pedestrian thoroughfares (albeit with cars as well, of course), but
now the addition of side streets to the plan gives a little bit more humanity
and a little bit less of a corporate theme-park feeling to the site. The more
streets there are, the less likely it is that the area between Fulton, Greenwich,
Church and Liberty is going to be another montrosity along the lines of the
Time Warner Center on Columbus Circle. Thank you, Santiago Calatrava, for making
a good site plan even better.