Next year, when construction wraps up at the Fulton Center in Lower Manhattan, commuters will be gazing up, rather than around, at the station’s new artistic centerpiece—a curved, 79-foot-high reflective aluminum diamond web encased in a stainless-steel tracery. The showstopper will send ambient daylight into the mezzanines, passageways, and possibly even the platforms to help passengers orient themselves in the transportation hub.
At $2.1 million, Sky Reflector-Net, an artist/architect/engineer collaboration between James Carpenter Design Associates (JCDA), Grimshaw Architects, and Arup, is an integrated work created for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Arts for Transit and Urban Design and Metropolitan Transportation Authority Capital Construction (MTACC). It is the largest such work that the MTA has ever commissioned. Sky Reflector-Net seamlessly incorporates both functional and aesthetic goals. The piece was recently installed within the transit center building designed by Grimshaw Architects and Arup.
Arup is leading the 15-member sub-consultant team, which includes building design architect Grimshaw Architects, architect and historic preservationist Page Ayres Cowley Architects, architects HDR | Daniel Frankfurt. The general contractor for the Transit Center construction package (one of nine construction packages) is the Plaza Schiavone Joint Venture.
Prismatic glass blades hanging at the top of the dome that cause the 8,500-square-foot surface to continually change by dispersing light rays throughout the station. Sky Reflector-Net consists of a stainless-steel lattice made of slender cables tensioned between two sizeable rings. The 53-foot-wide upper ring slants at a 23-degree angle. The 74-foot-wide lower ring sits at a 12-degree angle. The 952 perforated diamond-shaped and triangular aluminum panels each reflect approximately 95 percent of the light that strikes it. The largest reflective pane is just over eight feet tall.
Composed of 112 tensioned cables, 224 high-strength rods and nearly 10,000 individual stainless steel components, the design of the steel cable net sculpture emphasizes simplicity of construction and optimal performance in all environmental conditions. Arup developed 815 unique scenarios based on the possible permutations of air pressure, indoor temperature, and building movement within the Fulton Center dome. Each scenario produced a slightly different cable net shape. The net will assume these shapes over the course of its lifetime as the environmental conditions within the space change. Sky Reflector-Net is a powerful example of the capacity of a large tensile structure to define a landmark public space.
The Fulton Center serves the 2, 3, 4, 5, A, C, J, R, and Z subway lines and accommodates 275,000 passengers per day. The project is currently expected to cost a total of $1.4 billion, nearly twice the budget that was expected when the project began in 2003.