Calatrava Reveals Design for Church on 9/11 Memorial Site

Courtesy of Tribeca Citizen

The site of 9/11 has seen significant change in the last decade, from the addition of David Childs’s redesign of the One World Trade Center to ’s PATH station. It looks like the site’s transformation is set to continue – Calatrava recently revealed images of the new St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, to be rebuilt across Liberty Street from Handel Architects’ September 11 Memorial. The images, showing a distinctly Orthodox Christian design, have already begun to attract criticism in the debate over placing religious institutions around the World Trade Center.

St. Nicholas Church. Image Courtesy of Associated Press

The original St. Nicholas Church was crushed on Sept. 11, 2001 as the south tower of the World Trade Center collapsed. Besides the towers of the World Trade Center, it was the only building destroyed by the attacks. The $20 million design dismisses the look of the old parish church it’s replacing altogether, proposing a new non-denominational bereavement center.

Courtesy of Tribeca Citizen

Readers may remember that the proposal for an Islamic community center and mosque on the site two years ago ignited furious debate. This new design proposal purposefully considers this pre-existing controversy: the church’s modern Byzantine design draws inspiration from traditional religious structures found in the east, many of which were of course used for Islamic worship. In fact, the dome will be comprised of 40 ribs, just like the dome of Hagia Sophia.

As Rev. Mark Arey, spokesman for the Greek Orthodox archdiocese stated, “The dome, invented by the Mycenaean Greeks, was a Christian form of architecture that was borrowed by the Islamic world,” he said. “There are going to be some wonderful teachable moments down the road.”

The new St. Nicholas is set to open in early 2016. Find out more about the design here.

Cite: Baldwin, Eric. "Calatrava Reveals Design for Church on 9/11 Memorial Site" 13 Nov 2013. ArchDaily. Accessed 23 May 2015. <>
  • bowen

    hate it so much. hate his style too.

    • Andrew K

      Ugh. He made a mess of the transportation center there already. $2 BILLION over budget and he still gets more work? Honestly. Give it to someone that will do a better job AND save boatloads of cash.

  • Mark Hinchcliff

    It’s absolutely awful.

  • _

    This is a jumping castle, right?

  • student

    certainly a departure. feels like botta. I have to say i like it a lot.

    and i dont understand any comments that insinuate that this has much relationship at all to his previous work. i hardly recognize this as calatrava.

  • Marshall Lambert

    not a fan…

  • Aris

    There was an orthodox church in that location long before the Towers were built in the 1970s. The scheme just respects their property rights and the history of that place.

  • James

    “This new design proposal purposefully considers this pre-existing controversy: the church’s modern Byzantine design draws inspiration from traditional religious structures found in the east, many of which were of course used for Islamic worship.”

    Why would you even raise this ignorant point when the Rev. later on states that the Islamic mosques are all based on the Hagia Sophia dome that predates islam by more than 500 years. I would rather read a shorter more well informed article, then a longer one full of empty tasteless ignorant based stereotypes. I suggest that Archdaily hire better and more knowledgable journalists and editors.

  • Shantanu

    Not Impressive !

  • Joshua Boyd

    is this real life?

  • Steven Hant

    Dear Calatrava, stop whatever you are doing with that and have a smoke, a drink and get some twerk! Then come back and do it WELL!

  • Paul Harding, FAIA

    Calatrava is an awful choice to design a place of worship, especially on that site. Whatever the program or building type, you get his bombastic, overly pretentious self absorbed style. Plus he always goes way over the budget. Calatrava just does not care about the circumstance of the program or site, the environment or the budget.

  • Vat Jaiswal

    Folks, I have seen the physical model for the church and the dome is really impressive from the inside. Understand that there are some restrictions on what the building has to look from the outside…

  • g.carmona

    I hope the only reason to go with Calatrava, is because Siza was not available!? Awful. Allied Works would have been a good alternative without the need for star-architects.



  • Sharp

    Ground Zero should be the swan song / last act for the whole “starchitect” thing. Put a whole bunch of so-called top designers together, and what do you get? Clashing egos. formal posturing. Incoherent urbanism. It all adds up to a complete failure to create a meaningful Sense of Place. Daniel Libeskind has done more damage to New York and architecture than a boatload of terrorists could ever achieve.

  • David Hursh

    If you react to his style, then it works! Give the man a break, he’s the designer, not a saint! (get it? Saint?)

    • Jeremiah

      Apparently whether a piece of architecture works or not is measured merely by if it evokes a reaction? Seems like a pretty low bar to judge architecture by.

    • Tandoori Grille

      Re: “If you react to his style, then it works!”
      That must the dumbest comment ever on this site. If I react by vomiting after eating a badly prepared meal, does that mean the chef’s idea “worked”, and that it must be fine design?