Oculus New York, the 9/11 Memorial Station

September 11, 2001 was one of the events that changed recent history. The terrorist attack on the World Trace Center shocked the entire Western world and led to global wars and political instability. On top of that rubble today we find the Oculus New York

Due to the attacks, the World Trace Center station, which connected New Jersey and Manhattan, was completely destroyed and unusable. In 2004, the architect Santiago Calatrava showed a design for a new station, which would see the light in 2016: the Oculus New York

Its construction, as we will see, was not without controversy, but the result, and here we will agree, is spectacular. Join us in this story in which we will learn about the vicissitudes of the project, its construction, structure and symbolism, as well as the services of the new station.

Where is it?

The Oculus New York stands on the former World Trace Center station in the heart of Manhattan’s financial district. It is one of the most important stations in New York. It is estimated that its volume of users is over 250,000 passengers per day.

As we shall see, the building is divided into three parts, which are:

  • The Oculus New York
  • World Trade Center Transportation Hub, which is the underground station where several subway lines and the train to New Jersey converge
  • Westfield World Trace Center, the shopping centre, where some of the world’s most renowned shops are located
oculus new york localización


As we have just seen, underneath the Oculus New York we find one of the busiest stations in the city, as well as an enormous shopping area.

The World Trade Center Transportation is home to 11 underground lines, as well as access to the ferries that cross the Hudson River, the river that runs from New York City to Manhattan.

On the other hand, we have the Westfield World Trade Center, which has a commercial area of almost 343,000 m2 and whose construction began in 2007. Currently, it has more than 80 shops of renowned brands.

In summary, under the Oculus New York we find a whole commercial and transport infrastructure with an enormous volume of users.

The project

Oculus New York, which was conceived with the intention of creating a new modern and luminous station, has an elliptical design with a length of 107 m and a width that reaches 35 m.

We find a structure divided into several floors that include halls and mezzanines and that go down to 10 meters below street level.

It was in 2004 when the first design was delivered for a project that would not be inaugurated, and in parts, until 12 years later, with a total built area of 74,000 m2


Steel and glass were chosen for the design and construction of the station. Large and heavy pieces that required special cranes and thousands of working hours. In addition, inside we found marble, metal panels and, of course, concrete.

Free of internal columns, the huge steel parts, which had to be transported by ship, were distributed and placed inside after the foundation work.

The controversy, the increasing expenditure and the problems

However, the project did not escape controversy. Firstly, because the costs were doubled; secondly, because of the delay in the work; and thirdly, because shortly after its inauguration, the building was filled with leaks.

As we have already mentioned, the project started in 2005. The building, designed by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava and belonging to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

With an initial budget of $2 billion, the costs of the work shot up to $4.5 billion, in addition to accumulating a delay of 7 years compared to the initial estimate.

As if this were not enough, Hurricane Sandy, which hit New York City in 2012, flooded the site, then under construction, with over 750 million litres of water that had to be removed in order to continue with the project.

Finally, in 2016, after the inauguration of the Oculus New York, and after several days of intense rain, numerous leaks appeared and soaked the floor.

oculus new york estructura

The architect. Santiago Calatrava

Santiago Calatrava is one of the most renowned Spanish architects in the world. Formed between Spain, France and Switzerland, his works are widely known for their monumentality, daring forms and use of light.

He currently has offices in different parts of the world, such as New York, Zurich and Doha, and has received numerous awards, in addition to teaching during his early career.

For the design of the Oculus New York, Calatrava thought of the image of a bird taking flight from the hand of a child. A way of representing hope and rebirth and giving a station the symbolic character of a transcendental work.

A monument to tragedy and hope

With his design, Santiago Calatrava sought to condense into a single building the tribute to the victims of the attack and a tribute to peace, hence his idea of a white dove being born from the hands of a child.

As we shall see in its structure, the use of light and the 73 x 6 metre skylight, which is opened every 11th September, help to reinforce the image of a building dedicated to resurgence and hope.


On a concrete foundation that required several excavations are the numerous steel beams. They are distributed along the structure and crowned with two arches of 106.8 meters that cross the central axis of the project.

It is between these two arches that the famous oculus is located, which opens every year on September 11th at 10:28 AM to let light in directly on the central axis of the World Trade Center Transportation Hub station.

The Oculus, as such, consists of curved steel ribs painted white. Free of internal columns, the glass combines with the steel ribs and extends to create two viewpoints to the north and south of the square.

This use of light takes advantage of the slight slope at which the building has been constructed to create an illuminated path that symbolises the beginning of the reconstruction of the area.

oculus new york plano

“The sunlight passes through the centre and this ‘Way of Light’ is aligned with the longitudinal axis of the Occulus, symbolising the end of the September 11 tragedy and the beginning of reconstruction”.

Santiago Calatrava

Interior and exterior, a look at the skylight

As we have seen, the exterior and interior structure form a whole. In particular, the steel beams contribute to the monumentality of the station and the shopping area.

Both sides, the inside and the outside, take on a new meaning once the skylight between the central beams is opened.

Interior, a cosmic sense

Inside the Oculus New York we find an enormous white, open space, whose proportions dwarf the passenger between the enormous steel beams.

The illuminated main hall stands out for its architectural minimalism, as well as for receiving the light from the skylight, which projects a long illuminated strip onto the station floor. “A sense of the cosmic” in the words of the architect.


The exterior of the work is almost as impressive as its interior, and it stands out from the large surrounding buildings. Due to its curious structure formed by two wings of more than 100 metres made of steel and glass.

The architect’s idea in his design was that the piece would act as a humanising link between the scale of the pedestrian approaching the station and that of the gigantic buildings nearby.

If we stop to look at the building we will see unmistakably the style of its architect, as well as his intention to design a civil building whose function is enjoyed and lasts over time.

oculus new york interior

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