Santiago Calatrava's World Trade Center church opened in New York

St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church was built to replace a 19th-century church that was destroyed on 11 September 2001

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Santiago Calatrava Celebrates Opening of St Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine in New York City at the World Trade Center.
The Church was the only religious structure to be destroyed on 9/11; now it becomes a National Shrine at the World Trade Center site.
St. Nicholas Church is Santiago Calatrava’s first-ever built religious institution project.

 

Santiago Calatrava was tasked with redesigning the building entirely, creating a space that directly addresses the traditional Greek Orthodox liturgy while honoring the Church’s connection to the greater World Trade Center Memorial site. The St. Nicholas Church is the second completed structure at the World Trade Center campus to be designed by Santiago Calatrava, following the World Trade Center Transportation Hub.

 

“To see the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine finally open is emblematic of Lower Manhattan’s storied future and defining past,” said Santiago Calatrava, Architect of the newly rebuilt St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine. “I hope to see this structure serve its purpose as a sanctuary for worship but also as a place for reflection on what the city endured and how it is moving forward. Architecture can have an intrinsic symbolic value, which is not written or expressed in a specific way but in an abstract and synthetic manner, sending a message and thus leaving a lasting legacy. Thank you to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, the Friends of St. Nicholas and the WTC Memorial Museum for their fervent support throughout the course of reconstruction and for believing in my architectural vision.”

story imageSt. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine Angle from the Narthax into the Nave - Photo © Alan Karchmer for Santiago Calatrava.

 

Calatrava’s design for St. Nicholas Church was heavily influenced by Byzantine architecture and landmarks, specifically a mosaic in Hagia Sophia, the Virgin Mary as the “Throne of Wisdom.” In a series of watercolors, Santiago Calatrava symbolizes a metamorphosis from that mosaic into the facade of St. Nicholas. The Hagia Sophia-inspired dome features 40 windows and 40 ‘ribs’-- the same number of ribs in Saint Nicholas, which are visible from both the interior and the external subdivision of the roof. The dome features twenty prophets whose images alternate between the dome ribs. The architectural elements incorporated into the structure are based on an in-depth study of the relationship between Byzantine architecture and numbers.

story imageSt. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine Angle from the Narthax into the Nave - Photo © Alan Karchmer for Santiago Calatrava. 

 

The entire exterior of the structure was intentionally made of Pentelic marble to parallel the Pentelic marble that makes up the Parthenon in Athens. The dome is made of thin stone and glass laminated panels that are illuminated from behind. When illuminated, these areas of the façade create an incandescent aura that makes the entire church appear to glow from within, invoking the feeling of being a beacon of hope amid the night. The exterior of the church consists of four solid stone-clad towers that ultimately form a square shape, which hosts the dome-like building. The corner towers and two west-facing towers are clad in alternating large and small horizontal bands of white and gray marble reminiscent of the Church of the Holy Savior in Chora, Turkey.

 

St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine is the culmination of Calatrava-designed projects at the World Trade Center Campus, joining the WTC Transportation Hub – commonly known as “the Oculus” which opened to the public in 2016. Envisioned by Santiago Calatrava to symbolize a dove released from a child’s hand, the Oculus is situated at an angle in contrast to neighboring buildings and even the entire grid of the city, thereby allowing the light to shine directly overhead. The downtown architectural landmark has become one of the most photographed structures ever, responsible for bringing in tourists and helping reenergize the lower Manhattan area.

 

story imageSt. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine Angle from the Narthax into the Nave - Photo © Alan Karchmer for Santiago Calatrava.

 

 

The church is situated approximately twenty-five feet above street level, which raises it slightly above the canopy of the World Trade Center Memorial oak trees. Shroud in stone, it is entirely fitting that the church, the only non-secular building on the reconstructed site, occupy this raised position. As such, it will serve as a spiritual beacon of hope and rebirth for the congregation and the city through the millions of visitors meant to pass through the reconstructed World Trade Center campus.

 


A large open plaza on the west side leads visitors to the entrance of the church through a low arch spanning between the round stair towers on the west façade. The two non-liturgical spaces housed in the portion of the building west of the dome on the second and third floors are the Community rooms. Two small offices on this level have windows to allow views of the Memorial and Liberty Park. The large Meeting Room is an additional space open to the local community for meetings and other activities. These spaces are a significant component of the building’s program as they accentuate the church’s open and welcoming relationship with the greater World Trade Center Memorial site as well as the community of Lower Manhattan.

story imageSt. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine Angle from the Narthax into the Nave - Photo © Alan Karchmer for Santiago Calatrava. 

 

St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine is the culmination of Calatrava-designed projects at the World Trade Center Campus, joining the WTC Transportation Hub – commonly known as “the Oculus” which opened to the public in 2016. Envisioned by Santiago Calatrava to symbolize a dove released from a child’s hand, the Oculus is situated at an angle in contrast to neighboring buildings and even the entire grid of the city, thereby allowing the light to shine directly overhead. The downtown architectural landmark has become one of the most photographed structures ever, responsible for bringing in tourists and helping reenergize the lower Manhattan area.

 

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Press Release, Courtesy of Santiago Calatrava International

Cover photo: St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine Angle from the Narthax into the Nave - Photo © Alan Karchmer for Santiago Calatrava.

 

 

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    St Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church

    New York / United States / 2022