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Wild Visions Of What A New Penn Station Might Look Like (In An Architect's Dreamworld)

Creating a new Penn Station has been a dream of transit advocates since our current dreary monstrosity became reality (or since when the Knicks were winning championships in a recently-built MSG, which might as well be millenia ago). And with a new 15-year lease on Madison Square Garden (with a MASSIVE loophole that might let it stay there forever), architects have begun to dream about what a new, MSG-less Penn Station would look like.

The Municipal Art Society asked four architecture firms—Diller Scofidio + Renfro, H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture, SHoP Architects and SOM—to reconceive Penn Station and Madison Square Garden. The designs for the new Penn Station are contingent on the theory that MSG won't be able to make minor changes allowing for more rail use, that would then extend their lease, possibly in perpetuity.

The SHoP renderings would mimic some features of the old Penn Station, as well as feature a whole lot of light.

Another rendering, from H3, apparently has an art gallery and would feature a roof garden as well as "an eight-track high-speed rail expansion to the south."

And another design, from Diller, Scofidio + Renfro, looks like it would put Calatrava's PATH station to shame for ornate transit hubs. It would be "a city within a city, a porous and light-filled civic structure."

We'll post renderings of the new Madison Square Garden (possibly just a half-court buried deep beneath these beautiful new urban oases), later this afternoon. And below is the press release from the MAS:

The Municipal Art Society of New York, in its catalytic role to ignite discussion, effect change and provide an opportunity to re-envision Penn Station and Madison Square Garden, today unveiled four compelling design possibilities for a new Penn Station and Madison Square Garden in the culmination of its Design Challenge for a New Penn Station and Madison Square Garden. Today’s event, at the TimesCenter, follows a potentially game-changing vote regarding the future of the site at the City Planning Commission last Wednesday.

The four designs were presented by Diller Scofidio + Renfro with Josh Sirefman, H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture, SHoP Architects and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM). Each re-imagined the cramped and dismal Penn Station as an urban gateway, including relocating Madison Square Garden, which now sits atop the station and prevents needed expansion. A striking new MSG complex is suggested for sites ranging from immediately adjacent to the transit hub to a 16-acre site on the west side waterfront.

“These four firms were selected because of their outstanding design talent and wide-ranging experience on complex urban sites - including the Highline in Chelsea, a new arena linked to a subway station in downtown Brooklyn, the planned conversion of the Farley Post Office building, and other significant infrastructure projects around the world,” said Vin Cipolla, president of The Municipal Art Society.

“This Design Challenge is an invitation for the public to get involved in thinking about the possibilities for Penn Station and for the arena. We are deeply appreciative of the creative ideas and stunning opportunities envisioned by these world-class firms,” Mr. Cipolla continued. “They have demonstrated that there are a range of practical and liberating possibilities for an expanded, world-class Penn Station and a great new Madison Square Garden. They have set a brilliant and achievable standard to serve commuters, fans, and the future of Manhattan’s west side and the City itself.”

Diller Scofidio + Renfro with Josh Sirefman offers Penn Station 3.0, which will be a city within a city, a porous and light-filled civic structure filled with diverse new programs that reflect the hybridity of contemporary urban life. Not just a gateway to New York, the station will be a destination in itself with fast, transit-oriented programs layered with slower destinations in a gradient of decelerating speeds from tracks to roof. The building will host transient and resident populations including commuters, office workers, fabricators, shoppers, foodies, culture seekers and urban explorers. In this plan, MSG will be located to the west end of the Farley building on Ninth Avenue, with access to Eighth Avenue.

In pursuit of making rail the “mode of choice”, H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture asserts that several inextricably linked interventions must be made to improve the City’s essential systems and better express its culture: Public Space, Entertainment, and the Environment; Transportation; Education; and Economic Development. A relocation of Madison Square Garden to a 16-acre site on the west side waterfront provides an enhanced venue with a singular new identity and expanded tourist, hospitality, and entertainment opportunities. The New Penn Station, including an eight-track high-speed rail expansion to the south, accommodates increased capacity and integrates community and traveler amenities, including a new three-acre public park, retail complex, and two-acre roof garden. Redevelopment of the Farley Post Office creates a centrally located Center for Education. And, perhaps most importantly, 24 million square feet of private development around Penn Station and up Seventh Avenue serves as an economic engine for improvements and a revived world-class commercial district.

SHoP Architects’ plan imagines an expanded main hall of Penn Station as a bright, airy and easily navigable space that defines a center of a new destination district, Gotham Gateway. In addition to striking public architecture, the project proposes significant security and rail capacity improvements that address major needs at the existing station. The team proposes new development, as well as new parks and amenities, around the station to help defray the required public investment, including an extension of the High Line that connects the new station to a glorious and financeable new Madison Square Garden.

SOM proposes to grow the footprint of Penn Station by two additional blocks to accommodate high speed rail lines for the Northeast Corridor, expanded commuter rail service for all of the tri-state area, and direct rail connections to JFK, LGA, and EWR. This last connection would allow one to go straight from the curb of 7th Avenue, through security at Penn, onto a train, and directly to one’s gate. The station itself is open and intuitive. A central, transparent Ticketing Hall is placed at the center of the site, with dedicated vehicular drop-off and radial, pedestrian connections to the city surrounding it. Below this are two concourses running North-South, seamlessly enabling passengers to move from ground level to below grade. Retail lines these circulation spaces, integrating the station into the surrounding streetscape. Finally, at the lowest levels are the expanded platforms, where visitors arriving from an overnight flight from Hong Kong rub elbows with a commuter on her way to Morristown. With all of these networks intersecting at Penn Station, its central hall would become the iconic gateway for nearly every visitor around the world. Around the Station, Midtown West will continue to grow. Private development adjacent to a major transportation node is perfectly sensible - even desirable. That includes MSG, whose natural location would be adjacent to, but not on top of, a transit hub.

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