First Look: Santiago Calatrava’s Design for St. Nicholas Church

There was widespread doubt that Santiago Calatrava really was designing a new St. Nicholas Church (the former one having been destroyed in 9/11). But the New York Post spotted a rendering on the architect’s website. The website says Calatrava “set out to provide a building and sequence of spaces that would directly address the traditional Greek liturgy while creating a spatially varied architectural procession.” It’ll be located “at the eastern end of the new Liberty Park above the World Trade Center Vehicle Security Center.”

It turns out there are a lot more renderings on Calatrava’s site. Thoughts?

St Nicholas rendering courtesy Santiago CalatravaSt Nicholas rendering courtesy Santiago Calatrava4 St Nicholas rendering courtesy Santiago Calatrava5 St Nicholas rendering courtesy Santiago Calatrava6 St Nicholas rendering courtesy Santiago Calatrava7 St Nicholas rendering courtesy Santiago Calatrava8 St Nicholas rendering courtesy Santiago Calatrava2 St Nicholas rendering courtesy Santiago Calatrava3

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  1. I find it interesting that the renderings seem to include Koenig’s Sphere. Has a deal been made for it to be moved there?

  2. Am I the only one who thinks this looks more like a mosque than a church? Maybe its just me, but on this particular site there should be no resemblance to a mosque whatsoever.

  3. What would Banksy do?

  4. This is the first time I’ve understood how the south bridge, the street, and the elevated park are going to connect to all of this. Looks like our own version of the highline. Don’t need that sphere back here.

    It’s a bit clunky looking compared to the other buildings on the site. I always thought that this was the one thing they could have rebuilt immediately, exactly as it was. It was such a perfect little place.

  5. I think it looks nice but these renderings remind me that we have to do something about all the boring glass and steel buildings going up in the area. Seriously, could these ‘background’ buildings be any more banal and lifeless? Superblocks made up of these mega-crystal things are even more windswept and sad in my opinion. Is limestone THAT expensive?

  6. Spend time in Greece and you will realize that this looks like a white Greek Orthodox Church, NOT a mosque. How lovely anywhere but especially in this hard modern complex.

  7. Ugh to the mosque comment. It is a Greek Orthodox church for god sake.

    What is interesting to me in these renderings is that the general space is open and accessible, which is not at all the case right now. Currently the south side of the WTC site is more like a cross between Disney (with its Jumbotron notices) and some military zone. The site which was to provide public open space has been cordoned off for the tourism industry. It is completely inaccessible and a real eye sore–nothing like this rendering.

  8. OMG – it’s a Greek Mosque! I am not very good at the math, but here goes: Mosque = Muslims = Terrorists = We must Protest = Bring your children!
    Please feel free to check my math but that seems correct given our warm historical embrace of knowing nothing and stereotyping everything. Like when a mother pre-chews her baby’s food so it’s easier for them to swallow.

  9. Dont be silly re: mosques. The design blends elements of Hagia Sophia and the Pantheon. All Turkish mosques were inspired by the 6th century Orthodox cathedral, as was St. Peter’s in Rome to a degree.

  10. Greek Orthodox Christian churches need to prescribe to a predefined architectural design. The dome that people say “looks like a mosque” is actually called the cupola symbolizing the sky. They always have a cross at the top of them. No mosque dome has a cross, they have crescent moons.
    From what I understand, the archdiocese actually won’t give a building without a cupola their OK to become a Greek Orthodox Church.
    Do a quick search on Google for “greek church images” and you can see them there.

  11. Most disturbing is that missing and replaced by a blue monolith is FDNY 10 House, my home of 30 years in an 1890’s building, and the entire block of Cedar Street east of Greenwich. It may just be a rendering but they bothered to include the dreadful hotel between the church and Cass Gilbert’s 90 West. (And Cami above is 100% right.)

  12. Jim Smithers says: “OMG – it’s a Greek Mosque! I am not very good at the math, but here goes: Mosque = Muslims = Terrorists”. Even for an American this comment is crass!

  13. The older one was better. This one reads like a dead object and the rectangles on the edges detract.

  14. Can they please build it on Greenwich and Albany in place of the queue where the tourists line up? It would be perfect there.

  15. The Sphere, rendered here restored to its former pristine pre-9/11 form, that is denying its history, is only pictured here because the memorial architect, Michael Arad will not have it returned to its original home, where it survived the attacks damaged but intact – the only stucture of the WTC to survive intact. Google “WTC Sphere,” images, to see some striking photos of it standing damaged but still there amongst the wreckage.

    Arad says returning the Sphere would infringe upon the “integrity” of his memorial (emphasize “his”). By reminding people of the attacks. This, he says, would be didactic. It would tell visitors what to think. Like we were attacked.

    And that is the one and only reason it is not back on the WTC site; the construction supervisor for the Port Authority has told me, standing on the site, nothing construction wise prevents its return. He could put it right outside the museum building, steps from where it originally stood. PA Executive Director Pat Foye has called for its return to the memorial plaza.

    There is no precedent for a memorial at the historic site of the event it is supposedly commemorating rejecting all authentic artifacts that testify to that history. Imagine the USS Arizona Memorial w/o the USS Arizona. Hiroshima w/o the Dome remnants; Auschwitz w/o the camp remains; Gettysburg w/o the battlefield.

    In public forums before the memorial was even chosen the people overwhelmingly called for the Sphere’s return and inclusion in the memorial. Thousands more have signed online petitions calling for its return. The Fritz and Maria Koenig Foundation of Germany (it was sculpted by Koenig) has called for its return “as a victim, witness and survivor.”

    This was offered as a “compromise” site. Battery Park wants it out; Arad does not want it back – so we’re supposed to ignore the fact that the Sphere is now moved. We can put up a sign: this is the Sphere that survived the attacks in place – down over there. Behind those trees. On the other side of that glass pavilion.

    As these renderings show, the Sphere has no place at this spot. It looks like a boil. And it is significant that it is pictured as pristine, pre-9/11; they hope you don’t think, hey, isn’t that the WTC Sphere and why isn’t it down on the memorial?

    That’s how this crowd operates. Integrity is not part of the equation.

    On 9/11 my brother, Capt. William F. Burke, Jr., E-21, FDNY gave his life. See facebook, save the sphere.

  16. @Hugh – You’re so adorable.

  17. @Ellsworth – So glad to see your more frequent comments. i guess that whole “I don’t read this blog, it’s worthless” was just a bunch of B.S., huh?

  18. This is based on classic Eastern Orthodox church designs. It’s modeled on the Chora Church and the Hagia Sophia — two churches built in the Eastern Roman Empire, what we now call the “Byzantine Empire,” which is part of the historical and cultural inheritance of the Eastern Mediterranean. It resembles a mosque because Muslim architects in the former Roman provinces borrowed the designs. Most Greek Orthodox churches have domes and vaguely resemble this building.

  19. From the renderings there appears to be a significant part of this church’s inner space that is below street level . So actually walking inside may give the feeling of a much larger church .

    As for the Koenig sphere , I agree with Michael Burke above but because memories are still very fresh I feel that it may distract peoples’ mindset to a more traumatic time and not the solitude that the architects of the water features in the memorial envisioned. That said , after some decades the sphere should discreetly and without publicity be moved back to the original location .

  20. You have it backwards; mosques look like Byzantine-style churches. Actually it would look like a mosque if it had minarets. That mosques do resemble churches is just another cultural indictment of Islam. They physically stole Christian churches and then copied the design, not having any equally sophisticated design language of their own. They still don’t, or all of those vulgar huge buildings would be designed by bad Arab architects rather than bad Western architects.

  21. As a 40-year resident of Cedar Street, am I supposed to be grateful that, once again, my brick-and-mortar building is totally erased in visions of the future? (Thanks Mary P.) It happened many times in the early replanning stages for the WTC area: once our building was replaced by designs for an opera house. But the best was when our affordable building was replaced by a NEW affordable housing building. The blue glass monoliths may make a “better” backdrop for Calatrava’s architecture, but they would squeeze more of what little remains down here of life before 9/11.

    Our neighborhood has been inundated with tourists, which perhaps will ease when the memorial site is fully opened. But then, NYPD plans call for an inundation of tourist buses, crowding onto our impossibly narrow streets in unimaginably large numbers, all day every day (thank you CAMI).

    We are working to mainain a civic space below the trade center site, in which tradition, history, and the new are blended. The new St. Nicholas will join that civic conversation to celebrate life, continuity, reverence and inclusion. Please don’t be exclusionary, even in architects’ drawings. Come, see, embrace what is already here. And illustrate it as part of the future.

  22. What a mess they have made of the entire site, not just this church, which is probably the least of the site’s problems. Very depressing overall. The entire WTC site, despite the effort of the trees in the memorial part, is like a corporate mausoleum, it generates feelings about death rather than about life. I find it hard to gaze at it at all. I avoid it like the plague.

  23. I have the same feeling of utter despair when I visit Duane Park. What a mess they made of that place. It should be called Hobo Park or Curved Sidewalk with Benches and Bushes.

  24. LOL regarding the person who thinks this CLEARLY Greek Eastern Orthodox church resembles a mosque! What an uneducated bafoon! This is a classic Orthodox church design.

  25. Michael G: the previous one there didn’t have a dome. It was a repurposed row house, with an inside that looked Greek Orthodox to me at least (not an expert). Maybe it pre-dated the rule about domes?

  26. The current design may be classic Greek Orthodox design, but you are blind if you don’t see how many others would see the “mosque” aspect of this design. I read the church’s statement for making an inclusive design and I think it’s a great concept. This is a handsome design. That said; the imagery of church that evokes a mosque is problematical for this site. FOR THIS SITE. Not anywhere else; just here.

  27. @Anonymous – Why is mosque evoking “problematical” for THIS SITE?

  28. Jim, really! Islamic terrorists brought down the towers and you ask why a building that will look like a mosque for many people might be a problem for THIS SITE??? REALLY? Personally, I don’t think there should be any religious buildings on this site but the church was there before and they should be allowed to return. As I said, I think it’s a handsome design but lots of people will be offended. I will not be one of them. But I know there will be lots of people out there who are.

  29. I was hoping you were going to say flying mosques took down the towers or a plane filled with well-known mosque architects did, but nope, as expected, you gave the response I knew was coming. Thank God (The Christian God, of course, right, Anonymous?) for little minds like yours, that bring such simplistic reasoning to our great Land. Does this math make perfect sense to you: Islam = Mosques = All Muslims = All Terrorists = We must Protest! = Bring your Children! = Say childish things? Wait, wait, wait!! I bet it’s a Trojan Mosque disguised as a Greek Orthodox Church!! Once inside, they will lower the cross and raise the minarets!! Why didn’t we see it sooner?! Thank you, Anonymous, if people like you didn’t warn us of these “terroristical” plots, we would all look like a bunch of fools…and not just you.

  30. I do not know how to start with this church!!! My first objection is why Calatrava??? And not only for the price tag but there are excellent Greek architects that can do great things! They understand the history and the tradition better than a Spaniard
    Than why white?? Did you know that the all white buildings and churches in the Aegean islands were NOT traditionally white? It was a (sort of ) order of Metaxas before the WW2 to paint everything white so Calatravas conception is wrong ( le Corbusier inspired the look)
    The dome? Yes it is a classic Orthodox Christian design now but so it the ΣΤΑΥΡΟΕΙΔΗΣ (cross shaped) shape so where is that??
    Aghia Sophia was the very first building that eventually stood as a dome but the principles are based on the Roman arch construction which could withstand earthquakes and the same was COPIED by the Ottomans to build their mosques so no matter what an Orthodox Church will remind someone a mosque!!
    Finally in my opinion it looks a little lame sitting there an all white blob but who am I to say all that? I am not even an expert!!!

  31. Looks too much like a fortress to me. Needs some color, at least a gold dome or something.

  32. The church is a little weird looking, designed I’d bet to remind people of mosques. Because we were attacked by Muslim terrorists. This is how much of our intelligensia/artists think. It has a cross prominently on top and that’s a good thing. I liked the old church better and have a photo of it with the towers rising behind it hanging in my home. But it’s their church and it is ultimately a church.

    The Sphere does not belong there (pictured here weirdly in its pristine pre-9/11 state). Where are the gawking tourists that should be surrounding it? Perhaps a tour bus or two parked out front? Because put the Sphere there and that is what you will get. Not to mention the vendors pushing Sphere photos and 9/11 stuff.

    At the USS Arizona Memorial the USS Arizona was preserved; at Hiroshima the Peace Dome; at Auschwitz the camp remnants. At Gettysburg the battlefield; at Normandy the battle artifacts. Google the Amritsar Massacre or Oradour-sur-Glane for two more striking, lesser known examples.

    We have a greater obligation at the 9/11 WTC memorial than to create a place of serenity for us. A crime against civilization and humanity happened here. We do not wipe out all history and memory of the attacks. Already today visitors, especially the young complain it is “anti-septic.” Trees; waterfalls (the names are only there and arranged with reference to 9/11 because of the insistence of the families) – rather depressing, ever emptying “voids.” All impressively lit up at night. Very nice but what of it?

    The Sphere is a symbol of world peace and cooperation that survived the attacks. Prior to 9/11 people of every race, dress and language lunched around it and posed before it for photos. I can remember seeing literally, thousands of flyers posted at the family center, Lex Ave armory, days after. Every race, every color was there (including Muslims). Some of them had lunched around the Sphere the day before.

    Restoring it is not only preserving our history and allowing future generations to confront it; it’s an expression of hope and faith in the values attacked.

    A visit to that site has to be more than an exercise in narcissism; an entirely “interior” inward looking experience – all that the memorial is designed to provide. That was not 9/11.

    Sorry ran on long here and thanks to all who read; but it is not inevitable that artifacts like the Sphere (or the USS Arizona, etc) are preserved; and history, for one reason or another, is always being threatened.

  33. Let’s stop pandering to the ignorant, complainorati. If some idiot is offended because he/she believes every “domed” religious center represents “mooslems”, let him be offended. Much of the mess made in the rebuild process (and in general) is due to the fact that the lunatic fringe yells loudest and is allowed input.

    I like it. It’s understated and classic. I like it even more now that I know Lynn dislikes it.

  34. I’m sorry to be blunt, but Anonymous who thinks it looks like a mosque is just ignorant and obviously untraveled. The Turks adopted the style from the Orthodox Christians. I think it is beautiful and hope it gets built.

  35. Hideous attempt at a byzantine style in the modern. We have perfectly well known greek architects to design a church for
    the greek orthodox of NY.

  36. Mosque and Muslims are not terrorist you MORON

  37. Mosques are domed in imitation of the prevailing style of CHRISTIAN church that was used. In addition CHRISTIAN churches were turned into mosques therefore they have domes. The largest mosque in the world is still known primarily by its Christan name , Haigia Sophia, or Holy Wisdom in Istambul or Constantinople as it was known for over 1800yrs. Domes are a fundamental Christian not Islamic architectural style. St. Peter’s has a dome, St. Paul’s has a dome, most churches built prior to the Reformation has a dome. The US Capitol has a dome and it’s not even a mosque or a church. Get real people.

  38. Greek architects, are you serious? Have you been to Greece? All of their buildings are in ruins.

  39. Many stimulating comments, but Michael Burke has it right!
    A crime against humanity was committed in this site!!!!

  40. It looks kind of interesting to me as first glance, but I can’t really tell because the pictures aren’t close up. It does look like it needs more color variation though. I would say a little skillful use of blue like Greek churches have would be good, but blue would really clash with the surrounding buildings.

  41. I cannot believe some of the ignorant statements made by some idiots saying that the church looks like a mosque. Open a book and read some history before you expose your stupidity. You may learn something. To set the record straight, as some intelligent people here made clear, the church is a CLASSIC Hellenic (Greek in case the stupid idiots don’t know what that is) design. Originally invented by the Mycenaean Greeks around 1400 BC, perfected by the Romans and the made great by the Byzantines. There is a classic example of the Byzantine design right here in Flushing, NY in Queens, which ironically is also named after the saint, “St. Nicholas”. Islam only copied this ideal design because it is the ideal design to glorify God. One more thing, the author of this article mentions a “traditional Greek liturgy “, there is no such thing, it’s is actually a “Greek Orthodox” liturgy.

  42. Yeah, Thomas G, but this all Greek to me anyways…