Architect Calatrava is a Spanish architect and engineer who creates spaces that are both out-of-the-box and responsibly personalized. Amongst his projects are: modernist bridges, railway station and residential projects with standout completions of Rio de Janerio’s Museum of Tomorrow and New York’s Oculus. He is well-known for designing transport hubs and cultural museums, both structures that draw Calatrava’s attention for they “give identity to a place”. In regards to his personal style, Calatrava explained, “I’ve built seven railroad stations, and they’re all different, but they’re solving the same problem of moving people and allowing people to find their way. Each of my almost 50 bridges is different. Often, bridges can look the same over and over. I try to give each one a personal spin that enhances the place and keeps in mind the scope of the setting.” He focuses on individuality and personalization for each of his projects, with each one dedicated to the public and in consideration of what they are and where they are.
New York’s Oculus, the World Trade Center Transportation Hub, is one of Calatrava’s most distinguished and recognizable projects for Americans, due to its location right in the middle of the site where the two towers were brought down in the tragic event of September 2011. The Oculus is both a functional and practical addition for commuters in the city, as well as being part shopping mall. For Calatrava New York’s ever-changing skyline was always a source of inspiration and for the architect the construction of the Oculus was “an enormous privilege and responsibility to reconstruct a place that had been so cruelly destroyed.”
The project of the Oculus, was intended to serve the public while also honoring the tragedy that occurred where it stands. He stated, “The transportation hub is a monument to life— to everyday life. A gift to people who are commuting, or who are there to buy things, or those who live in the neighborhood.” To honor the space and as an homage to 9/11 and its victims, Calatrava carefully designed a 335-foot-long skylight as a memorial to the attacks. Each year on September 11th at exactly 10:28 a.m., the time when the North Tower fell in 2001, the skylight opens letting the sun enter through the roof and projecting a beam of light on the floor of the Oculus. This is called the “Way of Light”, which according to a spokesperson of the Oculus, represents “the light that continues to shine through after the darkness of the tragedy.” A placard at the transportation hub reads “Envisioned by Santiago Calatrava to symbolize a dove released from a child’s hand, the Oculus is situated at an angle in contrast to neighboring buildings and even the entire grid of the city, thereby allowing the light to shine directly overhead and for the sun to move across its axis exactly on September 11th each year.”
Although Calatrava may not have expected to become an architect, he honors his position and love for art, and this is definitely felt through his work. The Oculus is an emotionally charged project that has added to New York’s skyline while remembering 9/11.