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At Rail Hub, Bird Will Still Soar, but With a Bit Less Polish

At Rail Hub, Bird Will Still Soar, but With a Bit Less Polish

May 08, 2008
By By: David W. Dunlap | New York Times | The New York Times

They have not clipped the wings of the birdlike structure that is to be the aesthetic centerpiece of the World Trade Center transportation hub and PATH terminal, but Port Authority officials now plan to shrink it as they search for ways to keep the project within a $2.5 billion budget.

They also plan to change some construction methods in a way that would, generally speaking, result in a slightly less refined structure.

More substantial revisions may be needed if no contractor can be found to build the project for $2.5 billion, said Anthony J. Sartor, a commissioner of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and chairman of its trade center redevelopment subcommittee. Bids will be invited next month.

In a memorandum sent on Wednesday to Anthony R. Coscia, the authority’s chairman, Mr. Sartor pledged that the hub “will be completed and functioning in 2011.”

“Even with these potential design alterations,” Mr. Sartor said, “the hub will retain its signature ‘winged’ design, provide enhanced transportation services and substantial public space for commuters, residents and visitors alike, and serve as an essential anchor to the broader redevelopment of the World Trade Center site and Lower Manhattan.”

Rather than seeking more money – particularly since critics say that $2.5 billion is extravagant enough for what is essentially a commuter rail station – the authority has capped the budget. Therefore, as construction costs have risen, authority officials have whittled away at elements of the original design by Santiago Calatrava, one of the world’s best known architects and engineers, and the firms of STV and DMJM Harris. Mr. Sartor said the authority had been “working collaboratively” with Mr. Calatrava.

The process, called “value engineering,” is meant to find savings in building methods that neither compromise safety nor diminish aesthetics. Among other revisions already made to the project, skylights have been eliminated from the terminal’s below-ground mezzanine.

Now, the authority plans to reduce the street-level perimeter of the transit hall by 10 to 15 percent. This is the main entrance into the hub, and its canopy is a winged, elliptical, glass-and-steel structure that Mr. Calatrava has likened to a bird taking flight.

The authority also proposes to use standard concrete in the ceiling girders of the mezzanine rather than architectural concrete, which has a finish so smooth it can be mistaken for polished stone. Authority officials maintain that the public would have to look carefully to notice the difference.

In a statement released by his office on Wednesday, Mr. Calatrava noted that “an architect must always be creative and flexible,” adding, “I believe that we have made the design better in many, many ways, through this exercise.”


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