Even though it’s far from complete and barely open, I’d be hard pressed to find another building in New York that is so striking upon entry as the new Santiago Calatrava-designed World Trade Center PATH station. The Metropolitan Opera is the only other building I’ve been to recently that compares (honestly, it impresses even more). But the giant arching ceiling at the PATH station, the Oculus, grabs you by the spine and forces you to do something we New Yorkers rarely do...look up.
It’s as if there’s some magnetic force under the marble floor that forces your head back, then pulls your phone from your pocket. It’s architecture with a physical effect on the body. It’s architecture with a physical effect on the body.
And even though the glass spine, with its views through to the new Freedom Tower demands attention, the marble underfoot deserves it as well. It reflects the light so cleanly and matches the pure white ribs so neatly. For now at least, it helps give the space a sense of purity on a scale not regularly found in New York.
But there’s something else that’s keeping the space so pristine for the moment as well. Without any Dunkin’ Donuts or Chase Banks, this giant cathedral of excess is also unspoiled by commerce and the mediocrity of commercial/retail design. That’s really rare in New York.
Right now, it’s not easy to get to the Oculus. “Open” in New York doesn’t mean the doors actually open. You have to take a series of escalators through 4 World Trade center and walk down a long concourse to see this new space, but that only adds to the reward. For now, visiting the Oculus is like exploring some giant snow cave that was only just discovered by humans. It’s utterly pure and unspoiled.
Go now before the Cinnabons come.