Hey! It’s a brand-new Dey!

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.

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3 Responses to Hey! It’s a brand-new Dey!

  1. Tatyana says:

    Having personally experienced Calatrava’s building, inside and out (Milwaukee Art Museum) I can only wish he would be the one doing the whole thing altogether, not only PATH station. Mr. Libeskind with his false symbolism and concern for beautiful views from above is himself a symbol of PCness to me.

  2. Symphony X says:


    Felix Salmon talks about recent changes to the WTC site design. The original Blogburst is here. Let’s see if this touches off another round of discussion on the site design, which, as City Comforts notes, needs to focus more on…

  3. John Lumea says:

    If, as William Neuman writes in the Post article, Calatrava’s “changes don’t alter the basic principle of the Wedge,” it is only because, thanks to Libeskind himself, there is no longer a “basic principle” to alter.

    Four and a half months after The Phoenix Project published architect Eli Attia’s shadow study last May disproving what Libeskind, the LMDC, and even Governor Pataki had claimed for months — that Libeskind’s so-called “Wedge of Light” was a space within which the sun would “shine without shadow” between 8.46 and 10.28 every September 11th morning — Libeskind released his “refined plan” of 17 September 2003, now with the lesser claim that the “Wedge of Light Plaza” is “created through…symbolic geometry.”

    But the “refined” plan showed that Libeskind had dramatically altered the angles of the building elevations that previously had defined the wedge — the south facade of the base of Tower 2 (northeast corner of the site), on the north side of Fulton Street, and the north facade of the new PATH station, on the south side of Fulton.

    It is these street-level facades that — according to the story Libeskind has been telling since late last summer — will be lit by the sun at the appointed times every September 11th morning,

    But the new angles create a new problem.

    Regardless of where the sun will or won’t shine every 9/11, this much was always true of the original (December 2002) and revised (February 2003) plans: The angles of the tower base and PATH station facades did align with where the sun will be on that morning at the memorially significant hours of 8.46 and 10.28 am.

    In the “refined” plan, the facades align with where the sun will be at the memorially INsignificant hours of about 7:50 a.m. and 9:46 a.m. Nor is the wedge mirrored in the “Park of Heroes,” as before.

    If, as Neuman writes, “Calatrava’s proposal…pushes the station building north so that it partly overlaps with the Wedge of Light,” the south elevation of the wedge — the north facade of the PATH station — will have changed again.

    This has both public space and memorial implications. When The Phoenix Project published Eli Attia’s shadow study in May, Newsday quoted Alex Garvin’s attempt at a face-saving response: The real contribution of the “Wedge of Light,” said Garvin, was to create what he called a “new main square” for Lower Manhattan.

    The New York City Zoning Resolution defines “Public Open Space” as having a width-to-length ratio of NO LESS than 1:3. Applying that standard to the relevant area of the wedge — the south side of Fulton, in front of the PATH station — Eli Attia calculated Garvin’s “new main square” to be about 0.78 acres at the time of Garvin’s quote.

    Libeskind’s “refined” plan reduced the “new main square” to about 0.54 acres. Now, presumably, our “new main square” would be even smaller.

    Of course, one also has to ask: When and where is the sun going to hit those facades every September 11th morning now?

    Indeed, exactly what “symbolic geometry” is Libeskind using?

    And how far can a “basic principle” be stretched before it just snaps like a dried-out rubber band?


    The Phoenix Project

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