Behold What NYC's Penn Station Could Be: Four Visions

Wednesday, May 29, 2013 - 10:00 AM

(Courtesy of SHoP Architects)

Verdant spirals, heroic domes, river views and, of course, speedy trains: these are some of the possibilities imagined, and visualized in a challenge to redesign Penn Station. Have a look at what four top architecture firms dreamed up.

[UPDATE: See below for Madison Square Garden's none-to-pleased response to the renderings.]

The busiest train station in America is a cramped warren with a glorious legacy. As WNYC's own Jim O'Grady whimsically documented in this video, Penn Station is in drastic need of an overhaul. Some plans are already in the works (see renderings), but the Municipal Arts Society wants to push some boundaries of what's possible.

The civic group invited four proposals for re-imagining Penn Station and the stadium that sits on top of it, as well as the grand post office across the street, the site of the future Moynihan Station. 

Four architecture firms submitted the renderings below that demonstrate "there are a range of practical and liberating possibilities for an expanded, world-class Penn Station and a great new Madison Square Garden.  They have set a brilliant and achievable standard to serve commuters, fans, and the future of Manhattan’s west side and the City itself,” said Vin Cipolla, president of The Municipal Art Society.

A spokesman from the Madison Square Garden Company replied, in part:

“It’s curious to see that there are so many ideas on how to tear down a privately owned building that is a thriving New York icon, supports thousands of jobs and is currently completing a $1 billion transformation. These pie-in-the-sky drawings completely ignore the fact that no viable plans or funding to rebuild Penn Station and relocate MSG actually exist. Not that long ago, MSG spent millions of dollars and three years exploring a move to the Farley building as part of the new vision for Moynihan Station. That plan collapsed for a number of reasons that did not involve MSG, but did involve many of the same people now pressuring MSG to move, including The Municipal Art Society, which created enormous obstacles to achieving the relocation.”

Renderings are on exhibit at the Times Center in Midtown Manhattan. 

Here's a slideshow:

Courtesy of Diller Scofidio + Renfro.
Penn Station 3.0

Designed as a "city within a city, a porous and light-filled civic structure" by Diller, Scofidio + Renfro Penn Station 3.0 turns the train station into a destination for a variety of programming on "a gradient of decelerating speeds from tracks to roof." Mixing travel and destination, "the building will host transient and resident populations including commuters, office workers, fabricators, shoppers, foodies, culture seekers and urban explorers."

Courtesy of H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture
Waterfront Penn Station

The Knicks on the Hudson? H3 proposes to move Penn Station and Madison Square Garden to a 16-acre site on the west side waterfront. This vision for a New Penn Station adds eight high-speed rail tracks and "integrates community and traveler amenities, including a new three-acre public park, retail complex, and two-acre roof garden."

Courtesy of SHoP Architects
Gotham Gateway

SHoP Architects’ plan would expand the main hall of Penn Station "as a bright, airy and easily navigable space that defines a center of a new destination district, Gotham Gateway."

Courtesy of SHoP Architects
Gotham Gateway Park

Yes, that's a train hanging over what would become Gateway Park. 

Courtesy of H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture
Green-Roofed Towers

As part of H3's plan to move Madison Square Garden to the riverfront, it opens up land on 7th Avenue and next door. "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. Here's a rendering of the view from the sky. 

Courtesy Skidmore, Owings & Merril
A Grand Hovering Park

“What we propose creates a civic heart for Midtown West" Skidmore, Owings & Merril writes of their proposal, which would turn Penn Station into a rising crown of concentric planted walkways hovering above a grand glass dome. "SOM also proposes to build a public park four times the size of Bryant Park, a commercial development the size of Rockefeller Center, a city of Culture 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." Madison Square Garden moves next door. 


Courtesy of Skidmore, Owings & Merril
Making Penn Station More Central

The Skidmore, Owings & Merril 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."

Courtesy of Skidmore, Owings & Merril
Green Rings

Another view of SOM's grassy rings hovering above the main ticketing hall. 


Comments [6]

Sergey Alexeev from S.Petersburg, Russia

Beautiful pictures and ideas, but it is the last century ))).
There is most fresh ideas which are explained in the article -
Eco Architecture of the ХХI century: Large-Span Translucent Buildings -
You can easy to translate the text with of Russian with the support of automatic translator by Google/
Sorry for the inconvenience to read article.

Jul. 02 2013 12:14 AM
Paul de Silva from Long Island

As an Architect and commuter through Penn for more than 30 years I'm glad to see they all seem to be providing light and air to track platforms (one of my pet peeves) AND providing an appropriate entry experience to the city. As far as practicality - this was a design exercise to envision what could be - all in my biz have been through the process - what gets built will be different and much watered down BUT you need the vision first. MSG's grandiose self importance needs to make way for the public good.

May. 30 2013 08:38 AM
emjayay from Brooklyn

All the plans are more show than go. That area could certainly use some green space, but it should not be done in iffy high maintainence way. But this stuff is what you get when you let architects have at it. When it gets down to reality, SOM for example is more than willing to turn bold gestures into mediocrity. Like for example WTC1.

If we hadn't gone off to Iraq we could probably have afforded high speed rail in the Northeast from Boston to Atlanta and maybe then Florida. It should be there now already.

Madison Square Garden shouldn't be given a lease into perpetuity like they want. They should be on a month to month. It doesn't belong there. If Bloomberg had any vision beyond whatever can make a ton of money for some developer of luxury housing for millionaires, in three terms something should have happened to Penn Station. The Garden should go for starters.

May. 29 2013 05:29 PM
Keira from Manhattan

It would be interesting to experience a train station that was neither a cramped subterranean catacomb nor a grandiose statement of civic pride and imperialist hubris. The worst part of NJT is not Penn Station but the trains themselves. The old trains are ghostly, while the newer double decker cars have a cheap, plastic feel, like a fast food restaurant on wheels. I would gladly keep Penn Station as it is and take all that money and put it towards improved rolling stock (WiFi, super comfortable seating, attention to detail) and new tracks and signals to accommodate faster trains that are reliably on time. We seem time and time again to fall victim to symbolism over substance.

May. 29 2013 05:02 PM

Great now they can kill the Moynihan Plan and actually build Penn Station since they were using the same tracks. Surely we don't need two train stations that will cost billions of dollars, I'm happy the Farley Post Office is staying ....the steps are gorgeous :).

May. 29 2013 02:10 PM

All these pretty designs, before the Dolans go down fighting, before the lowest bid contract, before the political infighting… 

May. 29 2013 02:04 PM

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