Doing something new every week in 2017 #20: The Oculus (NYC)

Architecture nerd alert: let’s stop and appreciate Calatrava’s new World Trade Center PATH station aka the Oculus, for a second.

World Trade Center PATH station by Santiago Calatrava, New York

Like a phoenix, the Oculus rose from the ashes of the old PATH station (that was destroyed during the September 11 terrorist attack) in the centre of New York’s Financial District.

I understand that not everyone is as interested in architecture as I am, but seriously, just look at this building! It is a building that comes straight from the imagination land of science fiction.

This is the work of famed Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava and his signatures — the ivory sculptural concrete “ribs” and the use of large and spanning open space were all there in the Oculus. This was the first time that I had visited a Calatrava designed building (and quite accidentally at that!).


The Oculus looks nothing like its neighbours, which obviously didn’t sit well with most architectural critics. The $4 billion build have been called an ‘insane-looking beached whale carcass’ as well as “Not everyday-ugly, like a tacky brown tie or dress, but LOL-ugly” — Ouch!

It is worth noting though that the Oculus is by far not the ugliest building in New York! Also let’s not forget that even the Eiffel Tower had its fair share of critics (and protests) before it became the symbol of Paris, so there is hope for the Oculus yet!

World Trade Center PATH station exterior, New York


Like many of his other famous works (the most comparable being the Milwaukee Art Museum in Wisconsin), when you are inside the Oculus, you feel like you are inside the ribcage of a large bird.

The vertical lines are almost hypotonic as you move through the space, the masterful use of repetition — sheer perfection. It’s hard to deny that this is a special building.

World Trade Center PATH station interior, New York
Interior of the World Trade Center PATH station interior, New York

It was a delight, stumbling across my first Calatrava building while I was in New York City. This was a treat that I wasn’t expecting but what a treat it was!

Coming up next:

The Guggenheim

The Empire State Building

The Chrysler Building

The Met

#20 of 52 new ways to challenge yourself in 2017 | Last week: Wall Street