05/29/2013 12:50 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Penn Station Re-Imagined: Four Architecture Firms Propose Future Designs For The NYC Landmark (PHOTOS)

By Vanessa Quirk
(Read the original story here)

Four architectural firms, invited by the Metropolitan Art Society (), have laid out proposals as to how they would transform New York's darkest and dingiest hub, Penn Station, into a space worthy of its site in the heart of the city.

New Yorkers have been up in arms about Penn Station ever since its Beaux-Arts predecessor, designed by McKim, Mead & White, was demolished in 1963. Its replacement is a dark, cramped station that lacks both the operational and security features it needs to sustain the hundreds of thousands of travelers who use it daily. As Michael Kimmelman put it in his inaugural piece as architecture editor for The New York Times, "To pass through Grand Central Terminal, one of New York’s exalted public spaces, is an ennobling experience, a gift. To commute via the bowels of Penn Station, just a few blocks away, is a humiliation."

As we reported last month, Madison Square Garden’s (MSG) 50-year permit expires this year, and it will be either renewed without limit, or extended 10-15 years by the New York City Council in the coming months. The problem, according to MAS, is that "MSG happens to sit on top of the busiest train station in North America -- Penn Station -- which constrains its ability to serve over half a million people every day... 2013 presents New York City with a truly unique opportunity and together we need to seize this moment."

And so MAS invited Diller, Sofidio, & Renfro; H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture; SHoP; and Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill, to do just that. See their visions below:

Diller, Sofidio, & Renfro

The New York Times writes that Diller, Scofidio & Renfro will move Madison Square Garden across Eighth Avenue next to the James A. Farley Post Office building. Penn Station becomes a multilevel public space with amenities like a spa and a theater. "We’re making waiting a kind of virtue,” said Elizabeth Diller, a principal of the firm, to the NYT. “In New York, we’re always late and we think of waiting as a waste. How could you turn that into a positive attribute and actually come there early and spend more time?”

H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture

From H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture: In pursuit of making rail the “mode of choice”, H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture asserts that four inextricably linked interventions must be made to improve the City’s essential systems and better express its culture: 1) Public Space, Entertainment, and the Environment; 2) Transportation; 3) Education; and 4) Economic Development.

A relocation of Madison Square Garden to a 16-acre site on the west side waterfront provides an enhanced venue with a singular new identity and expanded tourist, hospitality, and entertainment opportunities. The New Penn Station, including an eight-track high-speed rail expansion to the south, accommodates increased capacity and integrates community and traveler amenities, including a new three-acre public park, retail complex, and two-acre roof garden. Redevelopment of the Farley Post Office creates a centrally located Center for Education. And, perhaps most importantly, 24 million square feet of private development around Penn Station and up Seventh Avenue serves as an economic engine for improvements and a revived world-class commercial district.”


From SHoP: SHoP's plan imagines an expanded main hall of Penn Station as a bright, airy and easily navigable space that defines a center of a new destination district, Gotham Gateway. In addition to striking public architecture, the project proposessignificant security and rail capacity improvements that address major needs at the existingstation. The team proposes new development, as well as new parks and amenities, aroundthe station to help defray the required public investment, including an extension of the HighLine that connects the new station to a glorious and financeable new Madison SquareGarden.

According to The New York Times, SHoP ARCHITECTS will expand the existing site with a lightweight concrete structure that is meant to evoke the old Penn Station and make the station a social meeting spot. “When’s the last time you heard someone say, ‘Let’s meet for a drink at Penn Station?" asked Vishaan Chakrabarti, a principal of the firm. “People say that about Grand Central all the time.”

Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill

From SOM: “Nearly 640,000 passengers use Penn Station every day, and yet it does not act as a dignified gateway to one of the world’s greatest cities,” states Roger Duffy, FAIA, Design Partner behind SOM’s vision. “What we propose creates a civic heart for Midtown West –- one that is truly public and open to all –- while allowing New York City to maintain its position as a global center of commerce, industry and culture.”

The plan calls for the expansion of Penn Station’s footprint by two additional blocks to accommodate high-speed rail lines for the Northeast Corridor, expanded commuter rail service for the entire tri-state area, and direct rail connections to JFK, LaGuardia and Newark Airports. This last connection would allow a passenger to go straight from the curb of 7th Avenue, through security at Penn Station, onto a train, and directly to the airport gate.

A central, transparent Ticketing Hall is placed at the center of the site, with dedicated vehicular drop-off and radial, pedestrian connections to the city surrounding it. With all of these networks intersecting at Penn Station, its central hall would become the iconic gateway for nearly every visitor around the world. In addition to creating one of the largest multi-modal stations in the world, SOM also proposes to build a public park four times the size of Bryant Park, a commercial development the size of Rockefeller Center, a cultural center larger than Lincoln Center, and a residential neighborhood the size of Tudor City. The design will fully exhaust its potential air rights but preserve the full four block ground-plane exclusively for Public use. The natural location for Madison Square Garden would be adjacent to, but not on top of, the major transit hub.”

Story via MAS and The New York Times