Station masters: pulling into New York, London and Budapest’s hottest hubs

Santiago Calatrava’s dove-shaped Oculus in New York
Santiago Calatrava’s dove-shaped Oculus in New York replaces the World Trade Center hub destroyed by the 9/11 terrorist attacks
(Image credit: Nikolas Koenig)

A slick commute is crucial in getting the day off to a good start, and a well-designed station is an integral part of this journey. It’s no surprise, then, that infrastructure is such a hot topic, especially in densely populated urban centres such as New York, where the World Trade Center Transportation Hub, designed by Santiago Calatrava, has just opened. The Spanish/Swiss architect’s sleek and sinuous structure replaces the Port Authority Trans-Hudson rail system destroyed in the September 2001 attacks. Located just to the east of the original World Trade Center Twin Towers, the revamped hub will now feature an added connection to subway trains. 

But Calatrava aimed for the structure to be far more than a practical, much-needed interchange for pedestrian pathways, subways and rail lines; featuring one of the architect’s trademark wing-shaped designs, it is also a glorious public space with a generous, light-filled central hall. Dubbed the Oculus and made of slender steel ribs and strips of glass, the arched structure soars above the vast column-free hall and then extends outwards to form two canopies to the north and south of the main hub, protecting parts of the surrounding plaza. A 330ft-long skylight along the roof’s main axis brings sunlight in, and can be opened to increase ventilation on warm summer days. The building’s overall form may be summed up, according to Calatrava, ‘by the image of a bird released from a child’s hands’. At night, the structure is illuminated from within, becoming a sculptural urban lantern.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, one of the most impressive infrastructure works in recent years is now under construction in London. Crossrail, which will link the city’s east and west in a matter of minutes, is not due to be completed until 2020, but, at interchange station Tottenham Court Road, two glass pavilions by Stanton Williams are swiftly taking shape. Lit up at night, they lead down to a new entrance adorned with the work of French artist Daniel Buren.

Budapest’s metro system boasts a new set of sculptural spaces too, courtesy of local practice Spora Architects. Featuring a striking lattice of concrete beams, the twin stations of Szent Gellért tér and Fővám tér are part of the city’s plans to connect South-Buda and the city centre of Pest. Ten more stations are currently in the pipeline in the Hungarian capital.

As originally featured in the June 2016 issue of Wallpaper* (W*207)

series of steel arches

Calatrava’s central hall for the WTC comprises a series of steel arches topped by a 330ft skylight

(Image credit: Nikolas Koenig)

slender steel ribs and strips of glass

Made of slender steel ribs and strips of glass, the arched structure soars above the vast column-free hall and then extends outwards to form two canopies to the north and south of the main hub

(Image credit: Nikolas Koenig)


For more information, visit Santiago Calatrava’s website

Photography: Nikolas Koenig

Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture & Environment Director at Wallpaper*. She trained as an architect at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and studied architectural history at the Bartlett in London. Now an established journalist, she has been a member of the Wallpaper* team since 2006, visiting buildings across the globe and interviewing leading architects such as Tadao Ando and Rem Koolhaas. Ellie has also taken part in judging panels, moderated events, curated shows and contributed in books, such as The Contemporary House (Thames & Hudson, 2018), Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020) and House London (2022).