redesigned by santiago calatrava, greek orthodox church destroyed in 9/11 reopens to public

redesigned by santiago calatrava, greek orthodox church destroyed in 9/11 reopens to public

santiago calatrava celebrates st. nicholas church reopening

 

On December 6, 2022, world-renowned architect Santiago Calatrava, alongside the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, as well as representatives of the Greek Orthodox Church, celebrated the historic reopening of the new St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church at the World Trade Center in New York.

 

The building destroyed in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, was completely redesigned by Santiago Calatrava. The Spanish-born architect created a space that directly addresses traditional Greek Orthodox liturgy while paying homage to the church’s relationship with the broader World Trade Center memorial site. After 22 years, the church finally opened to the public again on the day the Greek calendar celebrates the feast day of St. Nicholas.

redesigned by santiago calatrava, greek orthodox church destroyed in 9/11 reopens to public
St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church at the World Trade Center | all images © Alan Karchmer for Santiago Calatrava

 

 

Drawing from Byzantine architecture and landmarks

 

‘To see the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine finally open is emblematic of Lower Manhattan’s storied future and defining past,’ says Santiago Calatrava. ‘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.’ adds the famed architect.

 

The new design for St. Nicholas Church draws from Byzantine architecture and landmarks, specifically a mosaic in Hagia Sophia that shows the Virgin Mary as the ‘Throne of Wisdom.’ In a collection of watercolors, Calatrava depicts the transformation of this mosaic into the facade of St. Nicholas. The dome has 40 windows and 40 ‘ribs’ – the same number of ribs in St. Nicholas, visible on the roof from both inside and outside. Twenty prophets are also depicted on the dome, with images of them alternating between the ribs. The architectural features of the building were chosen after careful consideration of the connections between Byzantine architecture and numbers.

 

redesigned by santiago calatrava, greek orthodox church destroyed in 9/11 reopens to public
the new design for the St. Nicholas Church draws from Byzantine architecture and landmarks

 

 

a glowing beacon of hope

 

The entire exterior of the structure was intentionally made of pentelic marble to parallel the marble of the Parthenon in Athens. The dome is made of thin slabs of stone and glass. When these areas of the facade are illuminated, a luminous aura is created that makes the entire church seem to glow from within, giving the feeling of being a beacon of hope in the middle of the night.

 

Calatrava worked with DLR Group on the lighting design for St. Nicholas Church to make the church appear as solid stone during the day and have it glow with ‘the light of 10,000 candles’ at night, carefully coordinating the additional lighting with the ever-changing natural light inside the church.

redesigned by santiago calatrava, greek orthodox church destroyed in 9/11 reopens to public
the entire church seems to glow from within, like a beacon of hope in the middle of the night.

 

 

interior design and art

 

Visitors enter the main Altar through the ‘Royal Doors’ – a pair of doors depicting the Annunciation. Modeled after the Rotunda Church in Salonica and the Hagia Sophia, the main Altar of the church lies under the all-encompassing span of a central dome, in the center of which is the Image of Christ (Pantocrator), Ruler of the Universe, surrounded by twenty Old Testament Prophets.

 

The north and south axial niches have transparent arched windows divided by a cross. The Iconostasis extends across the east end of the Nave to draw the eye of a parishioner or visitor to the full width of the space as they enter the church. To the side of the main entrance are circular candle spaces. Behind the iconostasis is the sanctuary with the altar, to which only clergy and authorized persons have access.

 

The traditional iconographic program of the Shrine was fixed by Bishop Joachim of Amissos, a world-renowned scholar on Byzantine iconography, and the actual painting was executed by a priest-monk from the Monastery of Xenonphontos on Mt. Athos, the monastic republic in Greece that is over 1,000 years old. Father Loukas executed his interpretation of the 14th-century ‘Hagiographic School’ in a subdued style. Most of the icons were painted on Mt. Athos and brought by the monk to New York, where they were installed.

redesigned by santiago calatrava, greek orthodox church destroyed in 9/11 reopens to public
in the center of the impressive central dome, visitors view the Image of Christ

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project info: 

 

name: St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church 
architect: Santiago Calatrava
location: World Trade Center, New York

ARCHITECTURE IN NEW YORK (526)

CHURCH ARCHITECTURE AND DESIGN (215)

SANTIAGO CALATRAVA (46)

WORLD TRADE CENTER (19)

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