Penn Station is the busiest train station in the entire US, but it’s cramped, out of date and frankly, quite unattractive. For a train station that sees this kind of action and welcomes so many people to NYC, it should be far grander, more open, and make a greater impact. SOM was asked to participate in a design challenge, issued by the Municipal Art Society of New York (MAS), to re-imagine Penn Station and Madison Square Garden. “Nearly 640,000 passengers use Penn Station every day, and yet it does not act as a dignified gateway to one of the world’s greatest cities,” said Roger Duffy, FAIA, Design Partner behind SOM’s vision, in a press release. “What we propose creates a civic heart for Midtown West – one that is truly public and open to all – while allowing New York City to maintain its position as a global center of commerce, industry and culture.”
The concept takes over two additional city blocks to expand the train station and accommodate high speed trains. Besides accommodating high speed rail service to the Northeast Corridor, the station would provide expanded commuter rail service for the entire tri-state area, and direct rail connections to JFK, LaGuardia and Newark Airports. In this vision, four towers rise from the corners of the project and a horizontal building stretches between them. On the street level, a grand undulating park is criss-crossed by pedestrian access ways that lead from the streets into the central glass-domed ticketing hall. This naturally daylit space offers up spectacular views of the city and is an amazing welcome to commuters, residents and visitors alike. The podium above is also covered in landscaping and paths and acts as a second park.
The goal of the new Penn Station and surrounding amenities would be to create a new civic heart in Midtown West. The project would include the creation of a public park four times the size of Bryant Park, a commercial development the size of Rockefeller Center, a cultural center larger than Lincoln Center, and a residential neighborhood the size of Tudor City. Madison Square Garden would also find a new home, not on top of the station as it is now, but a proper site adjacent to the station. So far, this vision is merely a dream along with the other visions revealed on May 29th in a MAS-sponsored ceremony at the TimesCenter, where SOM along with Diller Scofidio + Renfro, H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture, and SHoP Architects revealed their plans.