All three architects, asked by MAS to present at their 2012 summit in honor of Grand Central’s approaching centennial, considered not only how to improve and renovate the aging station (suffering from acute overcrowding) but also how to best adjust the surrounding neighborhood for upcoming changes in New York’s zoning laws (which will increase Midtown’s population density).
Much like the other two plans, WXY’s vision expands access points and public space, making the terminal far more pedestrian-friendly. However, the plan differs in that it focuses on harnessing the “untapped potential” of a few key locations along the station’s edge and proposes a tower with “sky parks” (to symbolize New York City’s commitment to green and healthy spaces). As Claire Weisz, Principal at WXY, said of the project, it would “make the Grand Central neighborhood a place people enjoy being in [and] not just running through.”
Check out WXY’s description of their plan for Grand Central Station, after the break…
WXY Architecture + Urban Design was one of three distinguished firms invited by New York City’s Municipal Arts Society to create a vision for the future of the public areas around Grand Central Terminal and the surrounding East Midtown district. With deep experience in civic projects, the firm has proposed opening up more public space to city dwellers and visitors for enjoyment and reflection. The plan would also create inviting thoroughfares devoted to pedestrians and bicycle riders.
“New zoning rules should trigger real transportation links to public space. One way is to harness the untapped potential of Grand Central’s edges” says Claire Weisz, one of WXY’s founding principals. “The plan for Midtown’s near future needs to make the Grand Central neighborhood a place people enjoy being in not just running through.”
WXY’s proposal would create a striking new ground transportation hub, through the following interventions:
- Transforming Vanderbilt Avenue into a pedestrian-only street,
- Creating new public spaces around the base of the MetLife building,
- Adapting the west side of the current Park Avenue Viaduct into an elevated pedestrian and bicycle path, with a glass floor and seasonal plantings, and
- Introducing a new tower, featuring “sky parks,” on the west side of Grand Central Terminal.
Focusing efforts along 42nd Street and Vanderbilt Avenue, the plan by WXY Architecture + Urban Design restores pedestrian-friendly amenities to what had been an automobile-centric urban layout. The pedestrian/auto hybrid strategy includes making Vanderbilt Avenue a pedestrian-only walkway. The west side of the Park Avenue viaduct would become an elevated promenade featuring tall grass plantings and glass paving — a space for reflection hovering over the city bustle.
Combining walkable skylights with wide staircases and a multi-level approach, points of entry to the Grand Central area become unusual and gracious outdoor rooms that provide access and support to an expanded terminal city. Direct access to and links between the multiple subway and train lines — including the new East Side Access/LIRR lines — would be greatly expanded and improved.
Egress from the MetLife building’s base would become visually striking and yet relaxing to use, with escalators transporting travelers into a cleared podium park. Some years after completion, visitors exiting via these escalators will have the experience of being greeted first by the park’s grove of trees, a pleasant surprise in the Midtown East district. Surrounded by an active facade and a sky lobby above, the podium park presents an opportunity for a unique public event space.
WXY’s plan also includes a proposed obelisk-shaped tower west of Grand Central Terminal. The tower’s graceful, elongated pyramidal lines are broken at odd intervals by garden terraces that protrude like enormous window-box gardens, and feature seasonal plantings. The roof is likewise vegetated, reinforcing New York City’s renewed commitment to finding and creating green spaces for the health and enjoyment of its citizens.