09.23.18: Towering structure

Visitors walk inside the giant atrium of the Oculus,
the World Trade Center transportation hub, New York City. 


Technical information

Aug. 30, 2016,
2:13 p.m.

40°42'41.401" N 74°0'40.108" W
(Show in Google Maps)

Canon EOS 7D Mark II

Canon EF-S 10-22 f/3.5-4.5 (10mm)


1/2000th second


I don’t impress easily when it comes to travel sites or sights. After all, I’ve travelled a lot for both business and personal reasons and I’ve seen a lot of things.

I admit some locations are fun to visit. For instance, the first time I saw Big Ben my reaction was “this is really cool.” Same with the Eiffel Tower, Grand Central Station, Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, the Astrodome and a few other locations. These are mostly locations I’d seen on TV or in photographs all my life so I knew what to expect. It was just great being there.

But there’s only one location that caused a stop-in-my-tracks, jaw-dropping “wow” response. That happened in August 2016, the first time I stepped inside the Oculus, the World Trade Center transportation hub.

I had watched and photographed the structure being built. The outside architecture was eye-catching, but the building wasn’t that large — only 96 feet above ground level — and was dwarfed by 1 World Trade Center and the other surrounding buildings. 

Then I stepped inside.

All I could say was “wow!”

The interior was mammoth and spectacular. The white vertical ribs reached 160 feet above a light-colored floor to a skylight that helped illuminate the space. The room was 400 feet long and 200 feet wide. People walking at floor level, heading for trains or visiting shops that line the first two levels, looked microscopic. So I grabbed some photos using an extreme wide-angle lens to try to capture the enormity of the structure.

I did get a number of photos that I liked, but this one — taken from a balcony just inside the east entrance — is my favorite.

I’ve visited the Oculus a few times since that first visit in 2016. I know what to expect when I step inside so I’m able to contain the “wow!” reaction. But it still causes a super-sized “this is pretty cool” response.

As I wrote a few months ago, I have been a regular visitor to New York City for decades, first on business-related travel and now — as a retiree — strictly for pleasure.

I passed through the original World Trade Center many times, taking the PATH train from beneath the complex to get to Jersey City and often hitting the mall under the World Trade Center on the return trip to grab a snack before continuing my day.

I witnessed, with profound grief, the ruins in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and watched with curiosity as the rebuild progressed. I’ve visited the site several times since the construction was completed,  standing in silence beside the twin reflecting pools at the National September 11 Memorial, touring the 9/11 Memorial Museum, walking around the base of the new One World Trade Center building (craning my neck to try to see the top 1,776 feet above the plaza), and staring in awe at the the elaborate, winged and ribbed Oculus, the new transportation center on site.

A admit I was concerned when I first read about the construction plans, but I’m very pleased with the results. The site honors the memory of those who lost their lives on 9/11 and, through the museum, provides historical context. It features world-class architectural design in the memorable Oculus transportation hub. And it demonstrates the return to business and commerce through the many businesses located in the towering One World Trade Center Building and neighboring towers.

It’s a delicate balance executed with success and, perhaps, serves as confirmation of American resolve and spirit.

Each week I will post a photo from my collection with an explanation of how I got the shot. Previous photos of the week are in the archives.