Project of The Year – Transit World Trade Center Temporary Path Station
December 23, 2004
The design and construction teams that worked on the temporary PATH station at the World Trade Center site treated their task as more than just constructing an impermanent structure – and with good reason.
Restoring PATH service was a critical step in helping Lower Manhattan recover from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. And though it is only temporary, the station contains the first vertical elements to rise where the Twin Towers once stood: two 60-ft.-high tubular steel columns that support a 95- by 155-ft. cantilevered steel and glass canopy.
The project’s symbolism is therefore potent, and everyone involved treated the job as though it were a permanent work.
“How attractive and beautiful it is for a temporary station,” one judge said. It ended up being the runner-up in the jury’s deliberations for overall project of the year.
Although the project maintained the original track alignment and platform configuration in the interest of saving construction time, there were extensive track improvements at the Exchange Place end of the PATH line in New Jersey. Those efforts included carving out a new cavern for track switching.
“What you don’t see is what makes this job so extraordinary – the piece in the tunnel and the piece at Exchange Place,” another judge said. “The Exchange Place piece was extraordinarily complex – a very tight space where the Jersey City authorities did not let you blast because of the high-rise buildings above. You could only mine through by mechanical means.”
Back on the Manhattan side of the tunnel, designers faced the challenge of working over and under the corridor of the 1 and 9 subway lines, as well as reconnecting the PATH station to these trains and the N, R, W, and E subways.
Although the temporary PATH station is essentially an open-air shed – a design concession that helped shorten construction time and reduce mechanical complexity – its appearance is anything but plain. Architectural expression came in the form of the materials themselves: a raw, industrial look of exposed steel columns, beams, metal decking, and concrete floors.
Inside the station, meanwhile, giant photomurals depict aerial views of Manhattan as well as street scenes and maps. The project team applied the murals over a fiberglass wall cladding. Similarly, on the station’s exterior, polyester graphic mesh panels form a canvass to display quotes from famous people about New York City.
Recognizing that the PATH station was more than just a transportation hub, designers also incorporated a viewing wall surrounding the station’s entrance on Church Street. That effort also involved widening the sidewalk to allow for both regular commuters as well as crowds of visitors. A transparent grille allows an unobstructed view into the World Trade Center site below. The decorative motif on this grille was carried into the entry level of the PATH station on guardrails and fences.
“It’s a tremendous achievement,” a judge said of the overall effect.
In addition to the short timeframe allotted for both design and construction, less than two years, obstacles included working within the chaotic conditions of Ground Zero and the need to phase different contractors on the job. Coordinating all of the entities was an enormous challenge. The task fell to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s engineering department, which was the program and construction manager, and a joint venture between Yonkers, Tully, and Pegno as general contractor.
The bottom line, the judges said, was that it worked for a big audience. “When the station reopened,” one said, “the commuting patterns of 500,000 people changed.”