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Four Architecture Firms Challenged To Redesign Penn Station

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Last fall, nonprofit the Municipal Art Society asked three major architecture firms to reimagine the future of Grand Central. Now, MAS is doing the same thing for Penn Station. In a design challenge announced today in the Times, MAS is asking Santiago Calatrava, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, SHoP Architects, and SOM to rethink the much-maligned train station and the arena that sits atop it, Madison Square Garden. "We're really trying to unlock people's imaginations about the very real potential of a new arena and of a new Penn Station," MAS President Vin Cipolla told the Times.

What makes this idea intriguing is that there's a chance, albeit a slight one, that something could come out of it. Madison Square Garden's permit recently expired, and local officials (and archicritics) are asking for it to only be renewed for 10 years so the city has time to come up with an option that would improve the arena and the dungeon-like Penn Station. The whole permit thing is quite a mess, and there are obvious reasons for not tearing down MSG, including a recent billion dollar renovation, but the groups like the Municipal Art Society and the Regional Plan Association are pushing the city to "take the time to get it right." Can a design challenge help make that happen? The four designs will be unveiled at a conference on May 29.

UPDATE 4.19.13: The offices of Santiago Calatrava will not be participating in the challenge. Representatives sent along the following statement:

As Architects and Engineers dedicated to enriching the quality of life in New York City, we have volunteered our time and talent to assist the City whenever asked. And while we wholeheartedly support the mission of the Municipal Art Society, we are compelled to correct the public record concerning their announcement of our participation in the Penn Station Challenge. This notice was regretfully released prior to informing us and without our consent. Unfortunately, given the office's current work load and the time frame of the project, we cannot assist the Municipal Art Society in this endeavor.· Municipal Art Society Challenges Architects for New Penn Station Vision [NYT]
· Municipal Art Society [official]
· Madison Square Garden coverage [Curbed]
· Penn Station coverage [Curbed]
Photo by Eric Kono/Curbed Flickr pool