The Fulton Street Transit Center will open in 2009
In its current form, it may not seem that nearly 300,000 riders pass through the Fulton-Broadway-Nassau subway exchange every day. That is likely to change when the new, $844 million Fulton Street Transit Center opens in 2009. By then, the station will have transformed the maze of passageways, switchback ramps, and low ceilings into a navigable network between platforms, converging at a radiant central pavilion.
The pavilion is the planned icon of the Transit Center, and its grand, open form will serve as a beacon for transit downtown -- drawing riders with its luminescence both inside and outside its glass walls.
Behind its balance of form and function is a team of architects and engineers that have worked closely with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's capital construction team. Together they masterminded a design that simplifies connections between five separate subway stations that, nearly a century ago, were built by competing transit companies that never planned for them to interconnect.
Grimshaw Architects and Arup Engineers decided to let natural light lead the design scheme. Though daylight is not customarily part of subway-station planning, the architects saw its use as the best means to illuminate the dark, narrow corridors of the Fulton Street station.
Enter the oculus: a 110-foot-tall, asymmetric cylinder, topped by a reinforced glass skylight. The structure that the Transit Center is already famous for, the oculus will rise out of the three-story, square pavilion and funnel daylight down through the station to the mezzanine and eventually to the 4/5 train platform and beyond.
"We really wanted to bring a greater sense of humanity to the transit experience," says Vincent Chang, principal of Grimshaw Architects. "Daylight affords that opportunity because you get a journey that's suddenly punctuated by views of the outside. You can see shifting weather patterns. You can get a sense of the different seasons."
Chang and team extended that idea of openness and light throughout the main building, designing the base structure with steel and glass and making the space as column free as possible. As a result, the 366,000-square-foot pavilion will help passengers find their way from within the Transit Center, as well as from the street.
Located at the corner of Broadway and Fulton Street, the building brings to Lower Manhattan the advantage of a single, easy-to-find hub -- a marked change from the myriad of isolated entrances scattered around the neighborhood, some winding within private buildings to the turnstiles below. With it comes 24,000 square feet of retail space, public seating, and a few MTA offices.
The Transit Center is, quite literally, in a great location within an historic area filled with generally shorter buildings. To capitalize on this uncommon opportunity and maximize the station's natural light, the architects added James Carpenter to the design team. Carpenter is an architect and artist who specializes in the function and sculpture of light. (His most recent contribution to the downtown area is nearby at 7 World Trade Center.)
Together with Carpenter, the architects calibrated the light tower and oculus at an angle to capture light as the sun moves through the day. The tower is constructed of an opaque metal outer shell, within which is a light-catching liner. That liner, Carpenter explains, is made of finely corrugated aluminum panels, held together by steel tension cables and perforated to redirect and bounce light into the station.
The station's location in an historic area also presented an unusual preservation opportunity for Grimshaw.
The Corbin Building, built in 1888, stands at the southern end of the pavilion's block of Broadway. The Corbin, historically distinguished and prized as a "proto-skyscraper," was built after the advent of elevators but prior to the use of steel as a building's framework. At the request of the MTA, the architects incorporated the stone building into the Transit Center's design, restoring it both structurally and cosmetically.
"We were very amenable to the idea of showcasing modernity against historically relevant buildings," says Chang. "We've come up with a very unique and successfully blended design that incorporates the Corbin, allowing more streamlined movement through its basement, allowing connection to [the Transit Center's] upper levels. And you get to see the restored Corbin Building, which with our design is now more revealed."
Grimshaw's design complements the building, creating a subway entrance on John Street where riders will descend on escalators to the Transit Center's mezzanine. From there they can continue into the main building, called the "mixing bowl" by some designers, or head into the future Dey Street underground concourse toward the R/W Cortlandt Street station and the World Trade Center complex.
It is that east-west, river-to-river connection that helped drive the ambitious Transit Center design.
Since the Fulton Street Transit Center's groundbreaking in 2005, construction is making significant headway. Deconstruction on Broadway and Fulton is expected to conclude later this month, making way for erection of the main building over the next two years.
Further down Broadway, the new Dey Street headhouse site will soon be excavated for another escalator entrance. At Cortlandt Street/Maiden Lane, access to the 4/5 train is improving with new entrances on the north and southbound platforms. All in all, the station will rehabilitate or create 13 new entrances and bring several new escalators and elevators to the future ADA-compliant station.
With foundation work well underway and the final contract soon to be awarded, the future Transit Center is on schedule for a late 2009 opening. By then, it will accommodate hundreds of thousands of subway riders -- serving as a new Lower Manhattan destination in its own right.
Looking Ahead: Fulton Street Transit Center
Project Update: Fulton Street Transit Center
Slide Show: Fulton Street Transit Center
Hollowing Out the Dey Street Concourse
Fulton Street Transit Center on the Rise