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Which Grand Central Vision Is the Best for New York?

The New York Time’s Michael Kimmelman described it as an “ennobling experience, a gift,” a lesson on what architecture, at it’s best, can be. 

Indeed, entering the Main Concourse of Grand Central Terminal is a pleasure that rivals few others. For me, it took me by surprise: walking, as New Yorkers do, in a determined beeline through an undistinguished tunnel, I was suddenly struck by light. I stopped, as New Yorkers never do, to observe a vaulted, starry ceiling, the changing light, and multitudes of people whipping by. 

Grand Central is one of New York’s most beloved icons, one of the few which tourists and natives share alike. Which is not to say, of course, that it isn’t in need of a face-lift. 

The Terminal’s upcoming centennial, which corresponds with proposed re-zoning laws that would completely change the face of Midtown, makes now the perfect moment to consider how Grand Central’s grandeur can be preserved and its neighborhood reinvigorated. Last week, the Metropolitan Art Society (MAS) invited three firms to share their visions - and while SOM’s gravity-defying “halo” may have stolen the show, only one truly captured the spirit of Grand Central, and explored the full potential of what it could - and should - one day be. 

© Foster + Partners Courtesy of WXY Architecture + Urban Design Courtesy of WXY Architecture + Urban Design Courtesy of 2012 SOM

Final Vision for Grand Central Station, by WXY Architecture + Urban Design

Courtesy of WXY Architecture + Urban Design
Courtesy of WXY Architecture + Urban Design

We showed you grand central plan" href="" target="_blank" data-mce-href="" style="font-family: Georgia, 'Times New Roman', 'Bitstream Charter', Times, serif; font-size: 13px; line-height: 19px; ">Foster + Partners' vision, then SOM's - now we bring you the third and final re-imagining of New York's iconic Grand Central Station, by WXY Architecture + Urban Design

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...

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

Courtesy of 2012 SoM
Courtesy of 2012 SoM

In honor of Grand Central 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...