Thursday, March 17, 2016


New York City has always been a magnet for the physically gifted ever since the gritty city became the American hub of the beauty industry. Artists, models and wannabes have migrated to the desks of gallery owners and the casting couches of those looking to be the next Cindy Crawford. Model hopefuls come from far and wide to be discovered wishing to land the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue or to earn a pair of wings for the Victoria's Secret runway show. Statuesque beauty is a confrontational sport on the streets of Soho and intimidation is everywhere for those of us less physically endowed.
The same occurs in the arena of Architecture where buildings rise all hoping for their chance at a pair of wings and a walk down the city's runway to the applause of architectural critics and connoisseurs. Many fail, but with the partial opening to the public earlier this month of the Oculus in lower Manhattan a new set of wings was literally bestowed on a new steel and stone supermodel.
Here's some history and facts. The Oculus is the design child of Spanish Architect, Santiago Calatrava.
For all Wisconsin readers, he is the same architect who designed the Milwaukee Art Museum. Both designs take flight as a concept as both structures stand poised to take off with their graceful white steel wings.
The Museum functions as a repository for some of the world's art while the Oculus moves people and trains. Both structures make people stop to look not only at the art and humanity but at the building itself.
The design for the Oculus began in 2006 and construction commenced in 2008 with the arrival of the first fabricated ribs.
Because of the structural accuracy necessary, each rib could be no more than an eighth of an inch off, there were only four firms capable of manufacturing these ribs and all of them were located in Italy.
Each rib had to be brought in by boat to Red Hook and then transported over the Manhattan Bridge to the site, all 11,500 tons of steel ribs. Eventually all 588 pieces would make their way to the site at Liberty Plaza.
Finally after 612,330 man hours and counting and a bill of almost four billion dollars, double the original projected cost, the Oculus' grand hall has now been open to the public. I'm not sure if any landmark building has come in on or under budget and
I'm not sure if ten years down the road anyone will care. What I do believe is the building despite some of the features that had to be eliminated will be a vilified addition to the list of the top architectural highlights in the city.
No true original finds its way onto that list without controversy and the Oculus has met its share mostly from those opposed to the budget and allocation of funds some felt could have been better spent elsewhere. For me the money spent to transform the idea of the Oculus into a reality was money well spent.
It provides another reason for people to come to the city. It pins a badge of civic pride on the financial district that makes the area more desirable and that makes the area safer. Take a walk through the Path station at Herald Square and then go down to the Oculus. You tell me where you'd rather be.
Architecture can be inspirational. The religious world found this out very early on and secular architecture continues to be a tourist draw in almost every major city.
You can not help but be intrigued by the unique structure hovering with outstretched wings on the ground as you approach Liberty Tower, its skeletal asymmetry spreading out over the grounds of the 911 Memorial.
Experience the sensual curves overlapping the shear walls of glass of the surrounding structures.
Walk into the great hall of the Oculus with its soaring wings and feel the power of architecture and be overwhelmed by the purity of the minimalistic interior and stark holiness of a white on white arena.
There is a correlation between its blinding brightness and the light many have equated with the entrance to heaven. Go to the Oculus and try not to be inspired. I dare you.

Swimming Pool, Russia, 2003
Andrew Moore, photographer
Represented by Yancey Richardson Gallery, NYC

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