Last week, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a long-awaited and much-needed proposal for a makeover of Penn Station. Designed by SOM, the proposal for the new Penn Station–Farley Complex, to be completed in 2020, offers a pragmatic solution to the years of scrapped schemes and political stalling. However, The New York Times believes that Governor Cuomo’s proposal could be pushed further. The newspaper thus commissioned Vishaan Chakrabarti of PAU to come up with an alternative proposal to challenge Governor Cuomo’s plans.
Update: We've added a gallery of renderings to the post!
Penn Station is finally getting its much-needed makeover. The transportation hub, the busiest train station in the country, has been the target of much ire and disdain ever since its Beaux-Arts predecessor, designed by McKim, Mead & White, was demolished in 1963, forcing the station to retreat into the dark, cramped passageways below Madison Square Garden. The ordeal lead critic and Yale University Professor Vincent Scully to memorably quip: “One entered the city like a god. One scuttles in now like a rat.”
But today, after years of scrapped schemes, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a fast-track plan that will give New York’s scuttling visitors and commuters some breathing room as early as 2020. Led by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, the design calls for a new 255,000 square foot train hall and retail space in the James A. Farley Building, also known as the General Post Office, across 8th Avenue from Madison Square Garden and the current Penn Station entrance.
Governor Andrew Cuomo has laid out plans to transform New York's congested Pennsylvania Station and neighboring James A. Farley Post Office into a world-class transportation hub. Penn Station, North America's busiest train station, was originally designed in 1910 to accommodate 200,000; currently it's serving more than 650,000 passengers each day. Though a number of firms have been enlisted in the past to re-imagine the station, the project's developer has yet to chose an official architect.
“Penn Station is the heart of New York’s economy and transportation network, but it has been outdated, overcrowded, and unworthy of the Empire State for far too long,” said Governor Cuomo. “We want to build Penn Station to be better than it ever was, and that is exactly what we are going to do. This proposal will fundamentally transform Penn Station for the 21st century, and we are excited to move forward with the project in the days to come.”
The construction of Hudson Yards, the biggest private real estate development in the history of the United States and currently the largest development in New York City since the Rockefeller Center, is gaining momentum. The vast infrastructural project in the heart of the city is set to enclose an active rail yard with an expansive platform, paving the way for 28 acres (and 17 million square feet) of commercial and residential space. Housing over 100 commercial units, 5000 residences, 14 acres of open public space, an enormous school and luxury hotel all on top of a working train depot, the project will directly connect to a new subway station and meet with the High Line.
New York City’s original Pennsylvania Station was a monument to movement and an expression of American economic power. In 1902, the noted firm McKim, Mead and White was selected by the President of the Pennsylvania Railroad to design its Manhattan terminal. Completed in 1910, the gigantic steel and stone building covered four city blocks until its demolition in 1963, when it ceded to economic strains hardly fifty years after opening.
In this article in the New York Observer, Stephen Jacob Smith discusses the future of Penn Station, now that Madison Square Garden's permit has been extended by just 10 years. Smith thinks that the grand redesigns of the station itself are pure vanity - considering the poor organization of the current station and the competing interests of the stakeholders involved - and proposes that there are better improvements to be had in unseen infrastructure improvements rather than show-stopping architecture. Read the full article here.
A landslide vote (47-1) by the New York City Council has limited the permit for Madison Square Garden to just 10 years. The decision comes after the property owner’s - MSG Company - 50 year permit expired earlier this year, sparking a heated debate on whether or not the city should deny the owners request to renew the permit in perpetuity and envision plans for a new Penn Station.
This morning, four architectural firms, invited by the Metropolitan Art Society(MAS), displayed how they would transform New York's darkest & dingiest hub - Penn Station - into a space worthy of its site in the heart of the city.
New Yorkers have been up in arms about Penn Station ever since its Beaux-Arts predecessor, designed by McKim, Mead & White, was demolished in 1963. Its replacement is a dark, cramped station that lacks both the operational and security features it needs to sustain the hundreds of thousands of travelers who use it daily. As Michael Kimmelman put it in his inaugural piece as architecture editor for The New York Times: "To pass through Grand Central Terminal, one of New York’s exalted public spaces, is an ennobling experience, a gift. To commute via the bowels of Penn Station, just a few blocks away, is a humiliation."
As we reported last month,Madison Square Garden’s (MSG) 50-year permit expires this year, and it will be either renewed without limit, or extended 10-15 years, by The New York City Council in the coming months. The problem, according to MAS, is that "MSG happens to sit on top of the busiest train station in North America [a.k.a, Penn Station] and constrains its ability to serve over half a million people every day. [...] 2013 presents New York City with a truly unique opportunity and together we need to seize this moment."
In an effort to “unlock people’s imaginations” about Penn Station and Madison Square Garden, the Municipal Art Society (MAS) of New York has challenged Santiago Calatrava, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, SHoP Architects and SOM to propose four new visions that exemplify the potential of the highly disregarded area.
The challenge comes amidst a heated debate on whether or not the city should restrict Madison Square’s recently expired special permit to 10 years, rather than in perpetuity as the arena’s owners - the Dolan family - has requested. This would allow time for the city to “get it right” and come up with a viable solution for the arena and station that would not only “improve the safety and quality of life for millions of people but also benefit the economy”. Think Kings Cross in London. With a thoughtful mix of public and private investments, the crime-ridden transfor station was transformed into a thriving cultural destination.
More after the break...