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The World Trade Center Oculus is still leaking

Architecture East News
An aerial view of the Oculus, and its 355-foot-long skylight (Dorian Mongel/Unsplash)
An aerial view of the Oculus, and its 355-foot-long skylight (Dorian Mongel/Unsplash)

Three years after the opening of the $3.9 billion, Santiago Calatrava–designed World Trade Center Transportation Hub, the complex’s crown jewel, the Oculus, is still leaking.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the rubber seals around the Oculus’s 355-foot-long skylight, which is designed to open and close every year in remembrance of September 11, tore after the 2018 opening. In response, the Port Authority has used $30,000 worth of the infomercial-infamous Flex Tape to stem the leaks.

Rather than the $32 million skylight splitting down the middle into two hemispheres, each of the skylight’s 40 panels uses its own motor and moves individually, in sync, to open. Or, that’s how it’s supposed to work; Port Authority spokesman Ben Branham told the WSJ that the software controlling each panel failed during an August 2018 test run and repeatedly rebooted.

The same thing happened on September 11 of that year, and workers were forced to repeatedly start and stop the program to get the skylight to open and close.

Port Authority officials first noticed the leak in November of last year, and reportedly patched the broken seals with Flex Tape soon after. However, the skylight began leaking again May 5.

A gaggle of tourists walking around a bucket with wet floor signs around it

In March of 2018, the Port Authority deployed buckets to catch any errant falling water. (Matt Chaban)

The Port Authority was unable to provide a cost estimate for the skylight’s repair but noted that it would replace the seals over the summer.

This is far from the first time the partially-underground shopping center has battled with water intrusion. In 2017, rain and construction runoff from the adjacent 3 World Trade made its way into the complex, and in early 2018, buckets were placed below the skylight to catch errant leaks.

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