It is a building which the likes of New York City has never seen. Standing in stark contrast to Manhattan’s tall and boxy skyscrapers, this pure white steel structure looks like it is in motion: indeed, with its outstretched wings it is meant to evoke a bird in flight.
This new structural icon, the Oculus, is the centerpiece entrance to the World Trade Center (WTC) transportation hub. It is marking a major milestone for both New York City and Skanska, which erected 11,500 tons of structural steel to build the Oculus. The building happened through a joint venture and resulted in constructing the overall WTC hub.
The unveiling was transformational moment for New York, as the city continues to rebuild from the events of September 11, 2001. The sculpture of a building conveys both peace and perseverance, of having the fortitude to rise after having fallen.
Behind the simplicity of its appearance, the Oculus was an incredibly complicated construction effort.
Healing ground zero
The Oculus was designed by architect Santiago Calatrava. He gave the structure a minimalist look and supported the wings with white steel ribs interspersed by glass strips, all arranged in an elliptical shape.
The inside may be even more dramatic than the exterior, with a column-free, cathedral-like core stretching 160 feet high and 350 feet long. Running the length of the spine is a skylight that will open each September 11 to honor the memory of the victims.
The Oculus leads to the main section of the transportation hub, a below-grade complex that greets the public with a marble-clad mezzanine that has a similarly airy feel. When the hub is fully completed, more than 250,000 daily commuters and millions of annual visitors are expected at what will be part-transit center, part-shopping mall and part-tourist destination.
A place of remembrance
Some of those people will come for enhanced access to 11 subway lines and PATH commuter trains, the latter of which are reached from a four-platform train station that Skanska has partly finished rebuilding. Some will come to eat, shop and be entertained at the many retail offerings planned for the complex. And some will come to take in the stunning architecture of the Oculus, and to remember what happened on that site almost 15 years ago.
Whatever their purpose, they will all find a Ground Zero that is almost fully physically healed.
Skanska’s roles in constructing the transportation hub are the latest in the company’s more than 50-year history at the World Trade Center site. In the 1960’s, Skanska predecessor companies had key responsibilities for building the foundation and erecting the steel for the Twin Towers.
That original slurry wall foundation remains in use today, holding back the waters of the Hudson River.
A partner, in times of need
In 1993, Skanska repaired the World Trade Center following the car bombing in the parking deck below the North Tower. Fast forward to after September 11, 2001 and Skanska was there to help clear the debris from the WTC towers. In 2006, they began constructing the Dey Street Concourse to connect the World Trade Center transportation hub to the nearby site of the Fulton Street Transit Center.
A few years later, in 2009, Skanska began building the Fulton Street transit center’s foundations and made significant improvements to related subway stations. In 2011, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey awarded Skanska the assignment to fabricate and erect the steel for the Oculus.
Transportation hub work continues
However, beyond the work completing the transportation hub, there was a joint venture with Granite Construction that was awarded in 2010. Skanska is rebuilding the St. Nicholas National Shrine, which is also being designed by Calatrava.
“Skanska salutes the extraordinary men and women who helped build the World Trade Center transportation hub, bringing their tremendous dedication and technical ability to build New York’s newest iconic public space,” said Rich Cavallaro, Skanska USA president and CEO.
“Both our transportation hub projects—Oculus and PATH Hall—were massively complex engineering and construction projects filled with added challenges, including keeping the No. 1 Subway Line operating and removing 200 million gallons of water from the site after Superstorm Sandy. As the Oculus opens for the first time today, we hope New Yorkers enjoy this marvel as much as we did building it.”
Skanska USA is one of the largest, most financially sound construction and development companies in the U.S., serving a broad range of clients including those in transportation, power, industrial, water/wastewater, healthcare, education, sports, data centers, government, aviation and commercial. Headquartered in New York with offices in 34 metro areas, we have more than 10,000 employees committed to being leaders in safety, project execution, sustainability, ethics and people development.