SOM proposes floating observation deck
over Grand Central Terminal


News: while Foster + Partners think simply increasing capacity is the way to improve New York's Grand Central Terminal, architecture firm SOM has proposed adding a floating observation deck that slides up and down the sides of two new skyscrapers (+ slideshow).

Grand Central's Next 100 by SOM

The moving deck is one of several public realm strategies that the firm is promoting for the 100-year-old station, following an invitation from the Municipal Art Society of New York to re-think the spaces in and around the building.

Grand Central's Next 100 by SOM

SOM suggests that the hovering deck would improve the quality of the public space around the building by offering an "iconic landmark" with a 360-degree panorama of the city skyline.

Grand Central's Next 100 by SOM

"Throughout the history of New York City, urban growth has been matched by grand civic gestures," said SOM partner Roger Duffy.

Grand Central's Next 100 by SOM

The doughnut-shaped structure would be attached to the sides of two new office towers, which would fit in with the current rezoning proposals of the New York City planning department, designating it as a commercial area.

Grand Central's Next 100 by SOM

The plans also include new pedestrian routes to help ease congestion, as well as a series of public spaces that are privately owned and managed.

Grand Central's Next 100 by SOM

SOM and Foster + Partners both presented their proposals last week at the third annual MAS Summit for New York City, alongside American firm WXY Architecture.

Grand Central's Next 100 by SOM

See Foster + Partners' proposals in our earlier story.

Grand Central's Next 100 by SOM

See more stories about stations »

Grand Central's Next 100 by SOM

See more projects by SOM »

Grand Central's Next 100 by SOM

Here's some more information from SOM:

SOM presents vision for Grand Central’s next 100 years

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM) presented its vision for "Grand Central’s Next 100" at the Municipal Art Society of New York’s third annual Summit for New York City. Led by partners Roger Duffy, FAIA, and T.J. Gottesdiener, FAIA, SOM’s design transforms the public spaces around Grand Central Terminal, creating new pedestrian corridors for increased circulation and visualizing innovative options for new public amenities.

Grand Central's Next 100 by SOM

The Municipal Art Society (MAS) challenged SOM to re-think the public spaces in and around Grand Central Terminal in celebration of the landmark’s centennial. The design challenge coincides with a rezoning proposal from the New York City Department of City Planning, which, if approved, would allow the development of new office towers in the area around Grand Central, thereby increasing the density around the station exponentially.

Grand Central's Next 100 by SOM

The proposed zoning would also require developers to donate to a fund that would make improvements to the infrastructure in the area, including additional access points to the subway platforms and a pedestrian mall on Vanderbilt Avenue. Along with Foster + Partners and WXY Architecture + Urban Design, SOM was one of three architecture firms invited by MAS to present ideas about the future of Grand Central Terminal’s public realm.

Grand Central's Next 100 by SOM

SOM’s vision proposes three solutions, all of which provide improvements – both quantitative and qualitative – to the quality of public space around the station. The first solution alleviates pedestrian congestion at street level by restructuring Privately Owned Public Spaces (POPS) to create pedestrian corridors through multiple city blocks, connecting Grand Central to nearby urban attractors.

Grand Central's Next 100 by SOM

The second is a condensing of the public realm through the creation of additional levels of public space that exist both above and below the existing spaces. These new strata would be funded privately but under public ownership - Privately Funded Public Space (PFPS).

Grand Central's Next 100 by SOM

The third proposal creates an active, 24-hour precinct around Grand Central Terminal in the form of an iconic circular pedestrian observation deck, suspended above Grand Central, which reveals a full, 360-degree panorama of the city. This grand public space moves vertically, bringing people from the cornice of Grand Central to the pinnacle of New York City’s skyline. It is a gesture at the scale of the city that acts both as a spectacular experience as well as an iconic landmark and a symbol of a 21st-century New York City.

Grand Central's Next 100 by SOM

  • VDK

    I moved the mouse between the first three pictures and for a while I asked myself “really?”

  • 137kilo

    Beam me up, love it.

  • Reid

    Skidmore, Owings and MORDOR!!

  • Donkey

    By Grand Central Station I sat down and wept.

  • Reid

    STARGATE, Owings and Merrill!!!

    • Dave Gronlie

      Anyone coming through that gate is in for a really bad day…

    • Hugh Dismuke

      It’s disgusting!

  • Aaron

    I’m tempted to do Skidmore gOatse and Merril but I don’t think Dezeen would publish it.

    This is awful – completely insensitive to the context. Grand Central Station is an icon of New York and this turns it into a fairground attraction. It also completely diminishes its sense of scale. Then there’s the whole “halo” symbolism.

    • Reid

      I approve of that photoshop.

  • NgocNguyen

    The circular floating observation deck will reach the highest pinnacle of mechanical technology. Like it very much.

  • Peter

    Hilarious. Love those Mordor and Stargate mockups :D

  • SSSO

    Pie in the sky has never been taken so seriously.

  • James

    I hope this isn't taken seriously. Gross.

  • sor perdida

    The bigger SOM’s reputation, the stupider its “conceptual” strife. Is this what corporate “brainstorming” is able to fart out? This is an utter lack of urban sensitivity and contextual understanding.

  • Dave

    Flushing Meadows World’s Fair transplant?

  • Pyotor

    No! The risk of its damaging this NY icon during catastrophe is far, far greater than the nice experience you get from this suspended structure.

    This will never happen. Where would they get the money? And what NY politician in his/her right mind would endorse or approve such folly?

    • hey

      Please think about it after 100 years. Not tomorrow.

      • Pyotor

        100 or 1000 years… still a no. I think that an iconic building owns all the space above it.

        • Hugh Dismuke

          100% agree.

  • Zaedrus

    If you drop Jodie Foster through the middle, she will travel through a wormhole and you can record two minutes of static.

    • adam

      No, we should have sent a poet.

  • bfd

    I can’t think of any reason why. No really, why would you do something like that? Yech.

  • jez

    Honestly I don’t see whats so bad about this idea. It would be a huge technological and engineering achievement. I think NY needs more wild innovative ideas like this again. It’s part of what made the city so great at the beginning of the last century.

    Some of you are too cynical in my opinion, if this were to ever get built it would add a lot to that area.

  • Corb

    I guess SOM will do anything to validate building more hack towers.

    • Hugh Dismuke

      Someone’s getting some major head somewhere letting them build these things in New York.

  • Jim

    It’s true… it’s all OVER.

  • Mattowski

    Errm the concept of a circular orifice sliding down a building – suggesting the building is a phallus probably isn’t the most ideal design concept I’ve seen.

    Desecrating such an old and respectable building requires the designers to be taken to one side and given time to think what they’ve done. Whatever happened to the values of “fit for purpose” and “form and function”.

    • George

      Imagine constructing this above the Eiffel Tower, Empire State, or Chrysler. That would be interesting.

    • Hugh Dismuke

      It’s the dumbest thing I ever seen so far.

  • Stephen O’ Farrell


  • jim t.

    I wonder what kind of reaction this would have produced if Bjarke had proposed something like this?

  • schan

    Reminds me of a scene in an animated movie. I think it was Megamind.

  • sultony

    Did you know that lifts have a habit of breaking down? Who on earth is going to flirt with death and go on this thing? What an extravagant way of entertaining people. Now if it flipped over and spun round so that people felt they were in a fair ride there would be some point.

    • Hugh Dismuke

      It would be a complete catastrophe if some part of it ever collapsed on top of one of the world’s greatest structures: Grand Central Station.

  • .TIFF

    Oh good, SOM designed a giant glory hole for Godzilla that slides up and down.

    • Hugh Dismuke

      Pretty much. LOL! Or maybe it’s someone’s fantasy cock ring?

  • mksh

    Such a comfortable thought to know in the end – as such – this will never be constructed.

    • Hugh Dismuke

      I hope your right. I hope nothing is ever constructed over any of New York’s icons.

  • pascal t.

    I think they have never heard about statics. That happens when some universities are educating only cosmeticians. Furthermore, there are better examples existing for saving spaces in the big cities. Have a look at ” parasitic architecture”.

  • I heard this was inspired by Independence Day. What does that tell you?

  • Sam

    Somebody get me a giant basketball.

  • Cristian


  • Hugh Dismuke

    Why is New York City letting the Chicago firm SOM design its buildings? What’s the matter? New York doesn’t have any worthwhile firms?

    Now SOM is going to be allowed to design this thing that does not compliment Grand Central one bit? They been allowed to design some of the most important buildings in New York.

    Structures such as One World Trade Center, 7 World Trade Center, Random House Tower, Time Warner Center, JFK International Airport, 3 World Trade Center, One Chase Manhattan Plaza (which is just a big stupid looking black box) and to name several other large structures throughout Manhattan. These guys have no imagination and simply building fortresses the way they do in Chicago.