SOM’s vision for New York’s Iconic Grand Central Station

  • 23 Oct 2012
  • by
  • Architecture News Editor's Choice
Courtesy of 2012

In honor of Station’s upcoming centennial, three architects were asked to present how they would re-imagine the iconic New York terminal at the MAS 2012 Summit earlier this week.

While Foster + Partners’ plan emphasized the need to alleviate the Terminal’s acute overcrowding (“designed to support 75,000 people a day, Grand Central, one of the world’s busiest transport hubs, routinely handles about ten times that much ”), SOM’s contemplates the potential for new zoning laws to increase population density, and thus sees itself as an answer to the future demand for public space.

The plan highlights three solutions: pedestrian corridors to alleviate circulation; additional levels of public space; and, most provocative of all, a circular pedestrian observation deck, which rises/lowers above Grand Central for a 360-degree panorama of the city.

More images and info from SOM, after the break…

Courtesy of 2012 SoM/Crystal

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM) presented its vision for “Grand Central’s Next 100” [...] at the Municipal Art Society of New York’s third annual Summit for New York City. Led by partners Roger Duffy, FAIA, and T.J. Gottesdiener, FAIA, SOM’s design transforms the public spaces around Grand Central Terminal, creating new pedestrian corridors for increased circulation and visualizing innovative options for new public amenities.

The Municipal Art Society (MAS) challenged SOM to re-think the public spaces in and around Grand Central Terminal in celebration of the landmark’s centennial.  The design challenge coincides with a rezoning proposal from the New York City Department of City Planning, which, if approved, would allow the development of new office towers in the area around Grand Central, thereby increasing the density around the station exponentially. The proposed zoning would also require developers to donate to a fund that would make improvements to the infrastructure in the area, including additional access points to the subway platforms and a pedestrian mall on Vanderbilt Avenue. Along with Foster + Partners and WXY Architecture + Urban Design, SOM was one of three architecture firms invited by MAS to present ideas about the future of Grand Central Terminal’s public realm.

Courtesy of 2012 SoM/Crystal

SOM’s vision proposes three solutions, all of which provide improvements – both quantitative and qualitative – to the quality of public space around the station. The first solution alleviates pedestrian congestion at street level by restructuring Privately Owned Public Spaces (POPS) to create pedestrian corridors through multiple city blocks, connecting Grand Central to nearby urban attractors. The second is a condensing of the public realm through the creation of additional levels of public space that exist both above and below the existing spaces. These new strata would be funded privately but under public ownership – Privately Funded Public Space (PFPS). The third proposal creates an active, 24-hour precinct around Grand Central Terminal in the form of an iconic circular pedestrian observation deck, suspended above Grand Central, which reveals a full, 360-degree panorama of the city. This grand public space moves vertically, bringing people from the cornice of Grand Central to the pinnacle of New York City’s skyline. It is a gesture at the scale of the city that acts both as a spectacular experience as well as an iconic landmark and a symbol of a 21st-century New York City.

Courtesy of 2012 SoM

“Throughout the history of New York City, urban growth has been matched by grand civic gestures,” says Roger Duffy, Design Partner of SOM. “This balance between growth and civic response can be seen in examples such as the Commissioners’ Plan of 1811 which led to the gridded parceling of land, two zoning resolutions which recognized the potential for private development to shape the public realm and the creation of grand public place making such as Grand Central Terminal and the public parks of New York City. With the Department of City Planning’s proposed up-zoning of East Midtown and the anticipated completion of East Side Access in 2019, the city prepares itself for a new phase of urban growth. A consequence of this imminent growth in population density will be an increased demand for public space.”

Cite: Quirk, Vanessa. "SOM’s vision for New York’s Iconic Grand Central Station" 23 Oct 2012. ArchDaily. Accessed 28 May 2015. <>
  • sd

    pretty terrible

  • Reid
  • brian

    The below grade section is actually pretty sick.
    The rest – not so much.

  • miguel

    Positively obscene. What is with the ‘halo’? – a star-gate from which the GCS will ascend to Heaven upon completion of its earthly usefulness?, a mocking ‘canonization’ (as seen condescendingly from the venerable Pan Am (oops – it now has another name)Building?, a clever comment on ‘glass ceilings’ for public buildings?, a gun-sight,i.e., “watch out or you’ll end up like Penn Station”?, magnifying glass?, open man-hole cover?, build it and they’ll come (to throw coffee cups and cigarette butts onto the roof from the most perfect outdoor smoking lounge), world-class pigeon perch (and what that entails)? Not bad for 1st year student work though – a ridiculous gesture of sentimentality and conceit.

  • miguel

    take away the hideous ring > >> “SPACE DEFINER” << < and the rest could be (begun to be)taken more seriously. In fact the 'ring' – redundant and irrelevant – destroys the local scale, including Chrysler Bldg. The GCS can stand on its own gravitas which the ring callously violates.

  • Jake

    Two suicide renderings in a week. What is going on?

  • leo

    I dont think it is safe up there

  • mohammad roozbeh nowroozizadeh

    awesome…great theme…there are some ways to make it safe.

  • Allan

    I really like the design…especially the halo which makes the classic grand central station as the center of transportation for NYC.

  • Pingback: New Renditions of Grand Central Terminal and a Park Avenue Promenade