The Fulton Center Transit Hub opens in New York City today, making it a very special day in NYC. With the help of architect James Carpenter, the Fulton Center is more of a work of art than a standard subway station. Carpenter has already made his imprint in the city with designs in the 7 World Trade building, the Pier 5 pavilion of Brooklyn Bridge Park and the Time Warner Cable Building, to name a few. His contribution to the Fulton Center is the “Sky Reflector-Net” centerpiece, the visually arresting artwork/dome of the Fulton Center, and also the most costly commissioned piece in MTA history at $2.1 million.
Comprised of diamond-shaped aluminum pieces that will reflect up to 95% of the natural light it receives to all corners of the main level and the adjacent walkways, it transforms the center from the cavernous feeling of most MTA stations to something more.
As NYC’s next great artistic public space, the MTA calls the Fulton Center the “Grand Central of Lower Manhattan”. Grand Central, of course, being much more than a array of subway cars and trains, it is, in and of itself, a work of art. Some of the other artful details of the Fulton Center are the spiral staircase in the mezzanine and the mirrored Dey St. passageway that will connect Broadway to Church St free of charge with no need for a metrocard. Perhaps, most importantly, will be the use of the neighboring Corbin Building.
The Corbin Building was built in 1889, designed by Francis Hatch Kimball for Austin Corbin, financier and savior of the Long Island Railroad. It is 8 stories tall and stands out in the Financial District with a distinct stone, brick, and terra cotta facade. In the leadup to construction, it was thought the Corbin Building would be razed, but thanks to preservationists, with a economically-minded plan, it was saved. Now fully restored, most of the main floor will be an entrance to the Fulton Center with 31,000 square feet of commercial space to be used on its upper levels. And being mindful of art in public spaces, the Arts for Transit and Urban Design also commissioned over 350 unique terra cotta molds for the restoration.
At the end of the day, the Fulton Center was not intended to be a work of art but to serve as a transit hub. Yet, even that practical function is done artfully. The center will house an astonishing eleven MTA subway lines including the A/C/E, J/Z, 1/2/3, 4/5, and the R trains. Additionally, the PATH train will be accessible with additional connection to the World Trade Center station. Prior to today’s opening, transferring at Fulton St station was a convoluted maze. Today, all lines are seamlessly available, making travel for an estimated 300,000 daily riders considerably more tolerable. It could quite possibly even be enjoyable, which is quite a feat for public transportation standards. Now, time will tell if the Fulton Center becomes as iconic as Grand Central, but there is no doubt that it is much more than a subway station.