The Oculus in New York City’s World Trade Center Reconstruction

Oculus NYC by Bruce Appelbaum

BY  Bruce Appelbaum

The Oculus, officially the World Trade Center Transportation Hub, connects every downtown NYC subway line to the Port Authority Trans Hudson (PATH) trains to New Jersey. I guess it could also be considered to have the long-gone Hudson Terminal as its grandsire.

The structure, is meant to resemble a bird from the outside, with large wings on the north and south sides. There are windows on each side and along the roof line (the spine) making the interior space light and airy.

Many don’t get it — it is a large open space still under construction (as of late June 2016) and only open for a few weeks. The site is still surrounded by cyclone and wooden fencing and access is through long corridors that originate in the buildings that surround it. I have not figured out if there will be a direct entry from street level into the structure.

It takes up a lot of real estate. It was also way over budget and construction has suffered from 10 years of delay.

The building was savaged by local newspapers and magazines, as a waste of public money, poorly designed to accommodate the anticipated crowds (I was there on a Sunday morning, and there were few people about), a “kitch stegosaurus,” a white elephant, and a monstrosity. Initially there were also concerns about security for the site. Just goes to show that you cannot please everybody!

Despite the criticisms, it is an interesting space. It is bright and airy and the sunlight coming through the wings and the side windows makes interesting dappled patterns, especially early in the morning.

There are passageways linking the open space to most(if not all) of the World Trade Center buildings. Those passages will be occupied by dozens of retail establishments. At the east end, there is a passage linking the Oculus to the Fulton Street subway hub. At the west end is the entrance to the PATH. Continuing west, one can exit on the west side of the West Side Highway within Battery Park City. In all, one can stroll from Broadway and Fulton Street west almost to the Hudson River without setting foot outside.

The main photo shows the grand open space looking westward toward the PATH station. Other photos show the interior architectural and structural details, with the last photo showing the wings with One World Trade Center in the background.

Tech notes: all photos taken with Leica M7 with Elmarit-M ASPH 28mm f/2.8 on Ilford Delta 400 film. Negatives digitized and processed for “prints” using VueScan and Lightroom.