Subway Station Art: World Trade Center and Chambers Street Stations

I recently wrote about the Oculus, MTA’s new transportation hub located next to the World Trade Center site. But there is actually an art installation that predates this transportation hub that is also titled the Oculus – and it is located nearby, in the World Trade Center, Chambers Street, and Park Place subway stations. This art project began with the efforts of photographers Kristen Jones and Andrew Ginzel, who photographed the eyes of hundreds of New Yorkers. Then, artist Rinaldo Piras recreated the eyes in stone mosaics.

There are 300 unique eyes scattered throughout the connected subway stations, and it’s a fun challenge to hunt them down. (Amazingly, the mosaics were hardly disturbed in the collapse of the Twin Towers on 9/11.) I love this description of the Oculus by the artists, found on MTA Art & Design’s website: “Oculus was created to personalize and integrate the stations. Eyes are both subtle and strong – they engage passing individuals, allowing for meditation or inviting dialogue.”

Here are a few of my favorites.

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The installation also includes a large floor mosaic, which includes an eye in the center with a world map that extends outwards. It’s not easy to photograph, but here’s my best attempt.

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If you’d like to see the Oculus installation yourself, it is easily accessible at several subway stations. Take the E to the World Trade Center station, the A or C to the Chambers Street station, or the 2 or 3 to the Park Place station.

NYC’s Oculus: Architecture as Sculpture

Most people know that on September 11, 2001, the World Trade Center’s twin towers were destroyed. What many don’t realize is that there was an important set of transportation routes, located underground in that same area, that were also seriously damaged. In the years since that day, New York City has worked to rebuild the World Trade Center site, including those transportation routes. One of the most recent efforts was the opening of the new World Trade Center Transportation Hub this year.The Transportation Hub links the PATH train platforms, where commuters arrived from the neighboring state of New Jersey, and numerous subway lines.

The main feature of the World Trade Center Transportation Hub is the Oculus, the above-ground structure that covers the station and underground shopping area. Designed by Spanish artitect Santiago Calatrava, the structure has structural “wings” that extend over the site, although many critics think that it looks like oversized dinosaur bones. (Most commonly, people say it looks like a Stegosaurus.)

Here’s one perspective of the World Trade Center site. You can see the white “wing” of the Oculus in the foreground. The tall building behind it is One World Trade Center, also commonly known as the Freedom Tower. Other parts of the World Trade Center complex are still under construction.

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Although the Oculus has had its share of controversy (not everyone appreciates the design, it took much longer to complete than anticipated, and it came in way over budget), its striking architectural details make for interesting photos. Here are a few photos of the outside of the Oculus, showing how changing the camera angles features different aspects of the structure’s architecture.

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The inside of the Oculus is equally photogenic. The building is full of light, which makes the white marble almost glow. When you look down from the top balcony to the lowest level, the people below almost seem to be moving across an ice skating rink.

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The best way to get to the Oculus is by public transportation. Visitors can take the PATH train from New Jersey. If traveling by subway, you can take an E train to the World Trade Center station, the R train to the Cortlandt station, the 4, 5, J, or Z trains to Fulton Center, or the 1, 2, 3, A, or C train to the Chambers station.

Note: If you visit the Oculus, the National September 11 Museum and Memorial are located nearby and are definitely worth visiting.