Like many US railway stations, New York’s Penn Station is a shadow of its former self. With redevelopment of the station hindered by its location under Madison Square Garden, the Municipal Art Society (MAS) of New York hopes to relocate the gardens and rebuild the station for the 21st century. Last week, the MAS announced four possible designs for Penn Station and Madison Square Garden as part of its Design Challenge aimed at replacing or remodelling the current structure.
The brief of the competition was to reimagine Pennsylvania or Penn Station as an “urban gateway” and move Madison Square Garden to a new location to allow for expansion. If realized, this redevelopment would be the most radical change to the station since the original building was controversially demolished in 1963 and rebuilt with the current Madison Square Garden on top of it.
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The competition was prompted by expiration of Madison Square Garden’s permit, which its owners wish to have renewed in perpetuity. However, the MAS, in partnership with the Regional Plan Association, formed the Alliance for a New Penn Station with the objective of renewing the permit for only ten years to prompt redevelopment of the site. The final decision on the permit will be made by the New York City Council in July and the Design Challenge is intended to help build the case for a limited permit and redevelopment.
The Winning Designs
Diller Scofidio + Renfro with Josh SirefmanDubbed “Penn Station 3.0,” the Diller Scofidio + Renfro ( DS+R) with Josh Sirefman design is presented as a city within a city and “a porous and light-filled civic structure filled with diverse new programs that reflect the hybridity of contemporary urban life.” The designers see it as not only a transport hub, but as a destination in itself. It consists of layers divided into various activities based on time taken, from fast activities on top to slower ones below. The idea is that the structure will have a cascade effect as one descends to the trains and the layers “decelerate” in time. In this design, Madison Square Garden would be relocated to the west end of the Farley building on Ninth Avenue, with access to Eighth Avenue.
H3 Hardy Collaboration ArchitectureThe H3 Hardy design sees itself as a way to improve New York’s essential systems. In this case, these systems are seen as public spaces, entertainment, environment, transportation, education and economic development. The key to this is relocating Madison Square Garden to a 16-acre (6.4 ha) site on the west side waterfront. The project would not only involve a new Penn Station, but also an eight-track high-speed rail expansion going south, improved amenities and three-acre (1.2 ha) public park, retail complex, and two-acre (0.8 ha) roof garden, a new Center of Education and 24 million feet (222.9 ha) of private development.
SHoP Architects plan to expand the main hall of Penn Station to turn it into a bright, airy space that the designers see as the center of a new destination district called Gotham Gateway. Security and rail capacity would be improved and there would be new parks and amenities with a view to attracting private investment to help pay for the project, as well as a new High Line to connect with the relocated Madison Square Garden.
SOMThe SOM design wants to expand Penn Station over two more blocks with high-speed rail lines for the Northeast corridor for better commuter rail service and direct rail connections to John F. Kennedy, LaGuardia, and Newark Liberty International airports. The main focus would be a ticketing hall dominated by a dramatic oval skylight. A dedicated vehicular drop-off and pedestrian connections to the surrounding area would also be included. Retail spaces would be integrated into traffic areas, so that the station blends seamlessly into the city itself. Expanded train platforms would make up the lowest level.
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