Penn Station’s Future Reimagined in Stiff Competition
Competing proposals for a new Pennsylvania Station in New York have been unveiled by four of the city’s leading firms: Diller Scofidio + Renfro, H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture, SHoP Architects, and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. The plans respond to a challenge issued last month by the Municipal Art Society of New York, asking the firms—who collectively have dotted the city with new landmarks from the Freedom Tower to the High Line—to imagine a new transportation complex.
The words of Vincent Scully, the renowned Yale University architecture professor—“One entered the city like a god; one scuttles in now like a rat”—may best capture how many New Yorkers feel about the destruction of McKim, Mead & White’s beaux-arts Pennsylvania Station and the subsequent modernist replacement in 1968 by Robert E. McKee. As Madison Square Garden seeks to renew its permit perched above the plaza in perpetuity, the plans unveiled to the public at the TimesCenter hint at a brighter future for the complex.
All four envision an open and light-filled public space with Madison Square Garden far removed. In Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s plan, Madison Square Garden is placed alongside the Farley Post Office building with the station becoming a “city within a city,” offering public attractions such as theaters and spas. H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture removes the Garden to the waterside to make way for a three-acre public park and retail complex. SHoP renderings show a modernized version of the original McKim, Mead & White building, flooded with light. In SOM’s plan, the site becomes not only a transportation hub but also a center for the arts, retail space, office space, and residential housing.
Vin Cipolla, president of the Municipal Art Society of New York, says the firms “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.”
MSG Holdings, on the other hand, released a statement calling the plans “pie-in-the-sky drawings,” dismissing the thought of changing the current arrangement. For the time being, the New York City Planning Commission limited MSG’s permit to 15 years. Perhaps in that time, these imagined structures will move toward reality.