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

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:

Penn Station 3.0
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 Diller Scofidio + Renfro. )
Waterfront Penn Station
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 H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture )
Gotham Gateway
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
Gotham Gateway Park

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

( Courtesy of SHoP Architects )
Green-Roofed Towers
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 of H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture )
A Grand Hovering Park
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 Skidmore, Owings & Merril )
Making Penn Station More Central
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
Green Rings

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

( Courtesy of Skidmore, Owings & Merril )
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