Situated between the World Trade Center Memorial, City Hall, and the architectural canyons of the financial district, Fulton Center is the gateway to lower Manhattan for 300,000 commuters every day. Developed by Arup and Grimshaw architects, the $1.4bn project integrates five subway stations, provides access to nine train lines, untangles previously labyrinthine underground connections into intuitive transfers, reduces congestion, increases accessibility, and adds 65,000 square feet of as-yet-unoccupied retail space – all wrapped around a central atrium that has been carefully planned to separate consumers from commuters.
Daylight pours into the space through a 53-foot-diameter oculus and bounces off the Sky-Reflector Net, a cable structure supporting diamond-shaped aluminum panels. The light disperses around an awkwardly placed central elevator, through criss-crossing stairways and cantilevered platforms, to provide a rare and welcome dose of vitamin D to straphangers making subterranean transfers two floors below street level. Devised with James Carpenter Design Associates, it’s an achievement of artistic and technical virtuosity.
A romantic might even say the Sky-Net evokes the constellations painted on the ceiling of Grand Central Terminal or that its diamond panels recall the coffered ceiling of the Pantheon. Although this parametrically optimised surface might be an equal technical achievement, it has nothing of their warmth and grandeur. It is still, however, a practical and elegant union of art, engineering, and architecture that pulls Fulton Center from the brink of glossy banality. ….