The Oculus sucks

INT. A SWANKY NEW YORK RESTAURANT — 12:26 P.M. ON A THURSDAY IN NOVEMBER, 2003

SANTIAGO CALATRAVA, a hacktacular HACK, dines on oysters at a table with PAT H., a composite character based on various MAKERS OF BAD DECISIONS, and CASSANDRA, the Trojan princess and SEER.

PAT H.

Tell me, my good friend Santiago! What are your plans to rebuild the station at the World Trade Center?

SANTIAGO CALATRAVA

A glimmering harmony of steel and glass! A soaring bird released from the hands of a child!

PAT H.

Capital!

He takes a sip from his DIRTY MARTINI as SANTIAGO CALATRAVA slurps up ANOTHER OYSTER.

CASSANDRA

Nay, it will need extensive redesign for safety purposes. The final product will more closely resemble a trilobite, or a ribcage, or a Venus flytrap. And furthermore–

PAT H.

Santiago, what do you envision for the interior of your masterpiece?

Cassandra begins a silent conversation with her MUG OF JOHNNIE WALKER RED.

SANTIAGO CALATRAVA

A grand unification of the New York City Subway with the Port Authority Trans-Hudson rail system, a new dawn for commuters.

Cassandra lowers her mug.

PAT H.

Splendid!

CASSANDRA

That will not come to pass. Functionally it will be equivalent to a long corridor.

SANTIAGO CALATRAVA

A destination for the most sophisticated shoppers in the world’s most sophisticated city!

PAT H.

I can see it now!

CASSANDRA

Its centerpiece will be an Apple store, which will be successful in the future.

SANTIAGO CALATRAVA

A transportation hub to rival Grand Central Station!

PAT H.

Magnificent!

CASSANDRA

It will serve 40 thousand commuters per day. Grand Central will serve 750 thousand.

SANTIAGO CALATRAVA

White wings! White concourses! White marble!

He gesticulates wildly, knocking over Pat H.’s martini in excitement.

PAT H. (ignoring spill)

Like the driven snow!

CASSANDRA

Or like an ossuary. The marble will be hideously expensive and require frequent cleaning and replacement, what with the thousands of commuters traipsing over it every day. It will also become incredibly slippery when it rains.

She drains her mug.

CASSANDRA (to WAITER)

Whiskey!

PAT H.

That’s nice, Cassandra. Santiago, when can your heartbreaking work of staggering genius be completed?

SANTIAGO CALATRAVA

In five years!

CASSANDRA

It will take 12.

A handsome WAITER comes to the table with a BOTTLE OF JOHNNIE WALKER RED. Cassandra gives him her EMPTY MUG and takes the bottle.

CASSANDRA (cont.)

Much obliged.

She resumes conversation with her whisky.

PAT H.

I can spare 2.2 billion dollars for your project. Will that be enough?

SANTIAGO CALATRAVA

That should just about cover it.

CASSANDRA

It will cost four billion dollars. It will cost more than the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. And may I add that two billion dollars is already an obnoxious–

PAT H.

Oh Cassandra, you’re too pretty to worry so much. Have some wine.

Cassandra smashes the BOTTLE OF JOHNNIE WALKER RED on the ground. Other patrons of the swanky restaurant start to STARE.

CASSANDRA (screaming)

Don’t you get it, you idiots? This project will be a massive failure! It will be an embarrassing eyesore! Everything will go wrong!

She stomps off to PLACES UNKNOWN.

SANTIAGO CALATRAVA

Nothing will go wrong, I promise you, Pat.

PAT H.

I am glad to hear it, Santiago. One last question. What will you name your creation?

SANTIAGO CALATRAVA

I will call it… the Oculus!

CUT

If you have not been in lower Manhattan lately, you have successfully avoided seeing the utter monstrosity of an edifice that is the World Trade Center PATH station. The bleached bones. The pallid pill-bug. The “steroidal stegosaurus.” The Oculus.

Costing 4,000,000,000$, a.k.a. Enough Money to Buy Five Thousand Liters of Gold, 200,000,000$ more than the adjacent One World Trade Center, a.k.a. the Tallest Building in the Western Hemisphere, and overshooting its projected completion date by seven years, a.k.a Enough Years to Awaken the Hero of Time, the Oculus would have been a shameful project even if it were actually good. Sadly, this bird doesn’t soar.

IMG_20170114_164036995
Because the site where thousands of people were incinerated needed a giant ribcage.

For all of the glitz and glamour and luxury stores, there’s nothing to do. Why isn’t there any seating? Where are you going to take a celebratory rest after splurging on all those expensive brands? If you’re not going to scuttle off into a side tunnel, or leave the complex entirely, all you can do is lie down on the white marble and stare upward. Why is the main open space also the thoroughfare from the PATH to the subway? Grand Central does a good job of separating its train stuff from its other stuff. The Oculus does not.

To the commuter, the Oculus is a hallway. A pretty hallway, yes, but it’s still just something you have to walk through on your way to other things, while avoiding those tourists lying on the floor. I haven’t been in the area for that long, so I don’t know what things used to be like, but the Oculus does nothing to make your walk convenient. You get off the PATH, take an escalator up a level, exit the PATH area, take some stairs up another level, walk to the other end of the hallway, then take some more stairs (or two escalators!) up another level to get to the Metro station.

OK, that’s not too bad. But God help you if you have a bike, or a stroller, or a suitcase, or if you use a wheelchair. If you want to go up to the street directly above the PATH, then abandon all hope, ye who enter Oculus.

IMG_20170429_185101849
How hard could a vertical ascent be?

First, you have to take an elevator from the PATH platform to the PATH mezzanine.

IMG_20170429_184739229

Then you take an elevator from the PATH mezzanine to the main level of the Oculus.

IMG_20170429_184942327
I took this picture after getting off.

Then you can roll across the Oculus to the Metro side.

IMG_20170409_140107300
It ain’t a trivial distance.

 

Here you can take an elevator from the Oculus level to the Balcony level.

IMG_20170429_185207953

Now you can roll back across the Oculus, this time on the Balcony level, to another elevator.

IMG_20170429_185503905_HDR

This elevator you can finally take to the street.

IMG_20170429_185601108

That’s four elevators to travel from the train to the street directly above you while crossing the entire building twice! Only one of the elevators can travel between more than two floors! That is asinine! That is disgraceful! That cost four billion dollars!

And while you’re on this odyssey, you may notice some other, also horrible things. Like how the building isn’t even symmetrical.

For godawful reasons, the PATH side’s stub elevator is flush with the Balcony level, while the Metro side’s stub elevator has its own additional mezzanine. It looks like they didn’t build enough elevator and had to improvise. I guess they’re going to connect the Metro to that mezzanine or something but I don’t really care. It’s too ugly.

What I cannot justify, though, is the hideous, nonsensical escalator arrangement. Take a look at the Metro side of the Oculus. I stood on the Metro level. Below is the Oculus. Above is the Balcony.

IMG_20170409_140511256
Up on the left, then up on the… right. Down on the right, then down on the… left.
IMG_20170429_185235571
Up on the right, then up on the… left. Down on the right, then up on the… goddammit.

My captions may have confused you. But put yourself in the mind of the walker. If you’re going from the Oculus to the Balcony or vice versa, you will have to take one escalator on the right and one escalator on the left. If someone’s going the other direction, your “tracks” will collide. I have illustrated this in my inimitable style.

Oculus Elevators

This is the worst thing in that cavern of calamity. There was no reason to screw this up so badly. I have never been in a building that got this wrong. “Arrange your escalators correctly” is so obvious a point that it shouldn’t need to be said, but the geniuses behind the Oculus showed that with four billion dollars, anything is possible.

Finally, an oculus is a specific thing in architecture going back to ancient times. An oculus should be round. This oculus is not. The Oculus sucks. It is killing America.

UPDATE: It also leaks.

IMG_20170409_140540041

Header photos from Curbed and eBay.

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