Underground stations and transit hubs often have little in the way of daylight. A new transit hub in New York has tried to combat this with a specially-designed artwork-cum-skylight. The atrium of the Fulton Center features a huge kaleidoscope-like dome that pulls light deep into the building.
The renovation of the Fulton Center is in part due to its significance. Serving the commercial and residential communities of Lower Manhattan, it is one of the busiest underground transit interchanges in New York. It sits at the intersection of 11 transit subway lines, providing access to PATH trains serving New Jersey and seeing around 300,000 passengers a day pass through. The new Fulton Center design, by Grimshaw Architects, has sought to bring the facility up-to-date and to improve its ambiance in doing so.
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In order to provide its users with a pleasant and functional environment, the Fulton Center is designed to be open and bright. Its centerpiece is a large atrium crowned with a circular skylight (or "oculus") that is 53 ft (16 m) in diameter. The oculus sits 120 ft (37 m) above the atrium floor at the pinnacle of a conical dome.
The atrium's dome is lined with a large net structure comprising 112 tensioned cables, 224 high-strength rods, and nearly 10,000 individual stainless steel components. It is fitted with 1,000 polished aluminum sections.
Created in collaboration with Arup and James Carpenter Design Associates (JCDA), the artwork is known as the Sky Reflector-Net and is designed to reflect light that enters through the skylight deeper down into the atrium and beyond.
In designing the installation, Arup created 815 different possible arrangements, each with a slightly different cable net shape. These were modeled on the different possible permutations of air pressure, indoor temperature, and building movement within the Fulton Center dome. In addition to helping to brighten the Fulton Center, the final design aims to capture the attention of visitors to the Center, with the ever-changing reflection of the sky above.
"Every day someone might walk in here and there'll be a different quality of light in the dome overhead, a different view of the sky, a different sensibility about how light affects your day-to-day movement throughout the city," explains James Carpenter of JCDA in an interview on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's YouTube channel.
The Fulton Center opened to the public on November 10.
The video below shows the installation of the Sky Reflector-Net.