NYC’s Oculus: Architecture as Sculpture

Most people know that on September 11, 2001, the World Trade Center’s twin towers were destroyed. What many don’t realize is that there was an important set of transportation routes, located underground in that same area, that were also seriously damaged. In the years since that day, New York City has worked to rebuild the World Trade Center site, including those transportation routes. One of the most recent efforts was the opening of the new World Trade Center Transportation Hub this year.The Transportation Hub links the PATH train platforms, where commuters arrived from the neighboring state of New Jersey, and numerous subway lines.

The main feature of the World Trade Center Transportation Hub is the Oculus, the above-ground structure that covers the station and underground shopping area. Designed by Spanish artitect Santiago Calatrava, the structure has structural “wings” that extend over the site, although many critics think that it looks like oversized dinosaur bones. (Most commonly, people say it looks like a Stegosaurus.)

Here’s one perspective of the World Trade Center site. You can see the white “wing” of the Oculus in the foreground. The tall building behind it is One World Trade Center, also commonly known as the Freedom Tower. Other parts of the World Trade Center complex are still under construction.


Although the Oculus has had its share of controversy (not everyone appreciates the design, it took much longer to complete than anticipated, and it came in way over budget), its striking architectural details make for interesting photos. Here are a few photos of the outside of the Oculus, showing how changing the camera angles features different aspects of the structure’s architecture.




The inside of the Oculus is equally photogenic. The building is full of light, which makes the white marble almost glow. When you look down from the top balcony to the lowest level, the people below almost seem to be moving across an ice skating rink.




The best way to get to the Oculus is by public transportation. Visitors can take the PATH train from New Jersey. If traveling by subway, you can take an E train to the World Trade Center station, the R train to the Cortlandt station, the 4, 5, J, or Z trains to Fulton Center, or the 1, 2, 3, A, or C train to the Chambers station.

Note: If you visit the Oculus, the National September 11 Museum and Memorial are located nearby and are definitely worth visiting.

23 thoughts on “NYC’s Oculus: Architecture as Sculpture

  1. Wow! So much has changed. I visited the original Twin Towers decades ago. And had no idea what was going on there since 2001. Looks fabulous and some delightful pictures too.

  2. Interesting read and great photo’s. We were in NYC end of July and wasn’t sure what it was really all about but we were marvelled all the same with the structure and it’s dimensions. We look forward to visiting there again. Thank you for sharing.

  3. janina (jmnowak, via my fone)

    The Oculus — Wow! Awe inspiring. Uplifting. Cathedral-like internally. Stunning. Here’s what came to me immediately I saw the second and third images: The Eagle has lost part of its wing, to me, for 9/11 a telling symbol full of meaning. But, seeing the fourth image, the Phoenix has risen. The interiors are so magnificent in their simplicity. I think the architect would do very well here in Melbourne, Australia with this sort of design! I’d love to experience it. As for One World Trade Center, it has a 21st century take on the Empire State building; can you see it? Great photos.

  4. I’m still up in the air regarding any opinions of the Oculus. However, the rough draft is simply this: On September 10th, 2001, I think any reasonable person would have the agree that the last thing the Port Authority thought they would be doing is rebuilding the epicenter of the World Financial District and its transportation hub as a result of some incredibly cowardly, and futile, acts of terrorism. One day later- that would change. I believe that the Freedom Tower, the 9/11 Memorial Park & Museum, and the Oculus were all created with the best intentions in mind and we are fortunate that we have these places for memory and reflection. The abundance of the purity white is truly stunning- inside and out.

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