Four architects reimagine
New York's Penn Station


News: SHoP Architects and SOM are among four firms putting forward their visions for the future of New York's Pennsylvania Station and Madison Square Garden (+ slideshow).

Four architects propose Penn Station
SHoP Architects

In an event at the Times Center last night, the Municipal Art Society of New York also unveiled proposals by Diller Scofidio + Renfro and H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture, each reimagining the rail hub and the indoor arena that sits atop it.

Four architects propose Penn Station
SHoP Architects

SHoP Architects proposes to expand the main hall of Penn Station into a bright and airy space surrounded by new parks and amenities. An extension of the High Line – the New York park built along a section of a former elevated railway – would connect the station to a new Madison Square Garden offsite.

Four architects propose Penn Station

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM) put forward a huge expansion of the station centred around a central, transparent ticket hall. Floating above it would be an inverted dome containing offices, apartments and green spaces staggered over multiple levels.

Four architects propose Penn Station

The proposal by Diller Scofidio + Renfro suggests moving Madison Square Garden across Eighth Avenue and expanding Penn Station upwards to include new amenities such as a theatre and spa.

Four architects propose Penn Station

Finally, H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture proposes shifting Madison Square Garden to a 16-acre platform over the Hudson River at 34th Street, creating cycling and pedestrian promenades and a new 16-acre park.

Four architects propose Penn Station
Diller Scofidio + Renfro

The competition was launched to encourage discussion about the future of the site, which seems increasingly uncertain. While the owners of Madison Square Garden have asked to renew their permit for the site above the station "in perpetuity", the New York City Planning Commission recently voted to limit it to 15 years, placing a question mark over the arena's future.

Four architects propose Penn Station
Diller Scofidio + Renfro

Penn Station, which was designed to accommodate around 200,000 passengers a day but now has to deal with around 640,000, is seen by many New Yorkers as inefficient and badly in need of an update.

Four architects propose Penn Station
H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture

Last year the Municipal Art Society invited architects to suggest improvements to New York's Grand Central Terminal, with SOM coming up with a floating observation deck that slides up and down and Foster + Partners proposing to increase the station's capacity.

Four architects propose Penn Station
H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture

Other railway stations we've published include a Spanish station with a faceted aluminium interior and the vaulted concourse by John McAslan + Partners at King’s Cross Station in London – see all stations and transport hubs.

  • punter

    And everyone used the same render company!

    • boooo

      Lol, my thoughts exactly. It seems to be more of a ‘who can make the shiniest render’ competition than anything else.

      • zga

        I’m tired of people bashing on this style of rendering – clients generally like them a little shiny and exciting.

  • paraphernal

    Unsurprisingly, apart from the visual cornucopia, none of the entries manages to establish a relation with the neighbouring context; they also set up a strong barrier (even glassy) against the waterfront.

    • eve

      Do you know NYC? Penn Station isn’t anywhere near the waterfront. H3 put Madison Square Garden out on a pier with a giant new park (which would be amazing, IMO). No one else moved it anywhere that would entice it to move one bit.

      • paraphernal

        It’s the H3 Hardy flummoxing proposal that I was referring to when I mentioned the relationship with the waterfront. As smart as it may seem to sending adrift Madison Square Garden building in order to liberate its current plot for new real estate, the whole cluster Jacob Javits Center + the floating new MSG will be an urban behemoth hard to negociate or appropriate at a pedestrian scale.

        Just as the Trump development up north on West Side Highway, a floating drum with an occasional, nocturnal function will deter any urban, pedestrian activities that usually thrive on a multitude of small, diverse programmes on a rather dense street pattern (see the relatively new waterfronts of Copenhagen or Amsterdam). Sadly, all the proposals are just flexing a flaccid, artificially grown muscle when it comes to urban design – perhaps the meat of choice for those who comissioned them…

        • nym

          The real issue is if you want MSG off the back of Penn, there are very few sites on Manhattan that one could put MSG with any connection to transit. Shop’s MSG at the Morgan Mail Facility won’t work since it’s a national historic landmark and where the Postal Service is consolidating all of their NYC operatons anyway.

          SOM’s would need eminent domain to take the blocks where they put MSG, something that delayed Barclays for almost 10 years. DSR put MSG in the back of Farley which didn’t work when they tried it five years ago because the preservationsist didn’t want giant ad screens on the side of the building.

          There’s a big site near the Triboro at 125th St, or you could possibly rework the plan for Seward Park on Delancey. Other than that, you’d be taking private land somewhere, since there’s nowhere in Manhattan where a plot that is 500’x500′ exists.

  • Michael

    I always appreciate the most outrageously expensive design proposals for taxpayer funded public works. The proposals only get better when they represent an Escher drawing.

    The last thing public transportation needs is exorbitant costs on an impossible, confusing layout. Good luck with wayfinding in those proposals. Does New York transit need to hire additional personnel to walk people to their terminals?

    • eve

      It’s hard to tell from the graphics Dezeen has selected to show, but H3’s scheme creates a very clear, easily navigable new Penn Station with high speed rail that would get us to to Boston and DC in 90 minutes! And mixed-use development along the crappy 7th Ave corridor that could pay for it.

  • rodger

    SOM knocking it out of the ballpark. They seem to be on a roll with visionary projects recently. Good for them.

  • Desk

    I vote SOM’s. The scheme is mind-blowingly powerful and remarkable. The others are just a hodge podge of the common thematic of prevailing architectural trends, and all that funked up pizzazz. You’d almost want to travel to NYC just to get a glimpse of this SOM scheme, just like the Statue of Liberty and the Guggenheim. And the trees on top are carefully ordered, not like the nightmare of soil-less Photoshopped verdants all over on every flat rooftop surface.

    • Chris

      I was wondering if you could help me get a job at the mayor’s office; you seem fairly well connected.

  • Jan

    SHoP’s proposal included researching the actual cost and revenue, their design pays for itself. #sorrymichael

    • Jomes

      SHoP always uses these so-called cost and revenue charts to create a veil of professional legitimacy but in most cases it is very deceptive and anyone who knows a thing or two about economics knows that it is bs. It's just a marketing ploy and nothing else. They are formalists in suits.

      • Ken

        I think Bruce Ratner (Forest City Ratner) knows a thing or two about economics, and from his interviews, he seems pretty excited about how much money the SHoP led design and engineering team is going to be saving on Atlantic Yards.

    • Michael

      Just like all design proposals that come in under cost and on time as promised.

  • Colonel Pancake

    If you knew nothing about the NYC subway system before reading this article, you’d probably assume they had already found a way to make basic services operational before they threw $10 billion at a new station that did little to prevent subway riders from contemplating suicide.

    Unfortunately, you’d be incorrect. As for me, I’m eagerly awaiting the day when trains show up on time WITH air conditioning and WITHOUT a stench of piss to accompany riders on their trips to work.

    • sor perdida

      The ubiquitous stench of piss in NY underground stations (and the millions of rats that inhabit them) is the actual urban gauge of competence for a typical NY administration. One doesn’t need a Cyclopean oculus to see that. I and my sis Amanda – we can’t help gushing at these embalming ‘visions’ cast against the daily MTA squalor.

  • michal

    As SOM has lost all the sense of reality, SHoP is the most realistic and also the best in my opinion. It actually feels like a train station, not a shopping mall.

  • Taneli3740317

    And still none of these comes anywhere near the original. The demolition of it should be considered a crime against mankind.

  • elena

    SOM's is awesome. Inspired by Dante's Inferno?

  • _FA

    Look at those flying silhouettes in the Diller Scofidio proposal. Did someone forget to turn off a Photoshop layer?

  • mindgame

    SOM again, hands down!

  • Ken

    The point of this study is not about a vision for Penn and MSG, it is an exploration of how to get a functioning rail station for current and expected future capacities (HighSpeed + Amtrak + PATH + Metro North + LIRR + 1/2/3/A/C/E/7 + airportshuttle + bus + pedestrian = A LOT ) through the relocation of MSG.

    People outside of New York really don’t understand how much of a deathtrap Penn Station is. Even at its current capacity it is overcrowded with minimal ADA accessibility and flat-out scary emergency egress.

    The space NEEDS to be renovated, and the only way to do that is to relocate MSG.
    MSG is pushing to extend their lease in perpetuity. Many groups, including MAS who funded this study, are pushing for a 15 or preferably 10 year extension.

    Each proposal has its share of reality distortion fields, but it seems SHoP is the only one that took a realistic look at the problems and potential solutions. (That SOM plan is showing over 1000′ horizontal spans for that building – come on now.)

    Check out the architect’s presentations here – there is a lot more information beyond the ‘glossy images’

  • Desk

    SHoP’s scheme is BORING! It really looks more like an oversized shopping centre and theme park.

    With SOM’s scheme we have now come to indulge in something we have not seen in a long time – the power of architecture. The engineering can easily be solved by engaging some structure, whether trusses or stilts.

    If yes is more, then more is a BORE.

    • Ken

      Easily solved?! Look up how many bridges have unsupported spans of 1000′ and then see how much structure is required to support just the weight of itself and the cars passing over it. Not to mention the SOM scheme is trying to support some 10+ stories of commercial, residential and park (trees?!).

      Agreed that architecture can be very powerful, but the field should not continue to distance itself from realistically achievable ideas, particularly when the commuting public of the tristate area is in desperate need for ensuring the future success of NYC as a major hub of the US and the rest of the world.

      Putting forth a scheme like that doesn’t contribute to the conversation at hand (of course it does contribute to other conversations on design and architecture, just not this one.)

      DiSco+R contributed a very interesting concept about how technology and iPhone culture could affect how people use a space such as this, which then informed their architecture – THAT is contributing to the conversation.

      SHoP, showing a clear understanding of the REAL problems involved in this project and how that informs the architecture, contributes to the conversation.

      I don’t mean to rant, but this is likely one of the most important architectural projects in the US over the next century and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

  • As SOM has lost all sense of reality, SHoP is the most realistic and also the best in my opinion. It actually feels like a train station, not a shopping mall.

  • Desk

    Sigh… Realism is the killer of good forward thinking ideas. I’m beginning to imagine spaceships flying through those voids in SOM’s scheme. Why not? NYC as a progressive city needs to look to a sense of nostalgia. Tired, tired, tired of banal design.

    Some serious Star Wars and Star Trek stuff needs to start coming on board. Where is the sense of wonderment and amazement that the early 1920s Metropolis kind of architecture tried to at least evoke? Scofidio’s scheme is not cutting it because it is simply trying too hard. I would have problems navigating my space vehicle through that scheme. Think forward!

  • Ronald Reagan

    The necessary security inputs ought to be fine tuned to purpose and absolutely foolproof. My concern is primarily defense against the mindless behavior of terrorists. Otherwise, this is staggering. Thanks.

    • JayCee

      That’s about the most stupid thing I’ve ever read on Dezeen.

  • JayCee

    Beautiful schemes one and all. But unfortunately pie in the sky. MSG has already declared its intent to renew its lease inperpetuity.

  • John

    SHoP’s design is by far the best. It’s simple, efficient, and it’s the closest to doing the original Penn Station justice. SHoP has been doing some really great work around the city (Barclays Center, Brooklyn B2, Porter House, 111 W 57th, Mulberry House, among others). They deserve a shot and I think they can pull it off.