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Four Plans For A New Penn Station Without MSG, Revealed!

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Last month the Municipal Art Society invited four high-profile architecture firms?SHoP Architects, SOM, H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture, and Diller Scofidio + Renfro?to come up with ambitious plans for a new Penn Station. The timing was intentional, and apt: Madison Square Garden's permit to operate is expiring, and a contentious battle has been raging over how long it should be renewed. Those advocating for a new Penn want the Garden's permit to be limited to 10 years, giving the city time to prepare the machinations necessary to relocate the arena, essentially clearing space for the kind of massive, starchitect-designed, innovatively structured transit hubs that the four firms have proposed. Madison Square Garden, however, won't be so easily moved, and the City Planning Commission is currently recommending a 15-year permit with a loophole that would allow the Garden to remain in its spot in perpetuity should it agree to compromise with the trains lines that run below on improvements. But many, including Times archicritic Michael Kimmelman, are holding out hope that the City Council and its speaker Christine Quinn will see the benefit to limiting MSG's operations in order to build a statement-making station, like the ones designed for the challenge that were presented this morning.

? Let's move Madison Square Garden a few blocks southwest to the Morgan postal facility, says SHoP Architects. Let's also get rid of 2 Penn Plaza and redevelop a tower nearby, as well as rezone and build offices in a swath of Midtown south of the station, to make up for the space that would be cleared to make way for their glass-facaded design. Their Penn Station is an "urban bowl," with two parks, a more airy concourse, wider sidewalks and plazas around the three-block site, and a garden towards the top. SHoP also proposed an extension of the High Line that would loop eastward, past the relocated MSG to deposit pedestrians at Penn.

? The proposal by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) incorporates glass walls and skylights so that even "from the tracks you know where you are." They aim to move MSG to a spot just south of the Farley Building, on Eighth Avenue between 30th and 31st streets. Above the station would be a mixed-use complex, with residential space, parks including a skyline garden, offices, and places for cultural/leisure activities.

? H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture's plan involves relocating Madison Square Garden to a built-out pier along the Hudson River to the west of the Javits Center, and connecting it to the rest of the city via an elevated walkway for pedestrians and cyclists called the water line. With the freed up land, they would upzone plots all along Seventh Avenue to make way for tall office towers, four of which would occupy the four corners of the Penn Station site. A three-acre roof garden would sit on top of the station, while all of the train lines would use the multi-layered structure whose centerpiece would be an airy 120-foot-high main hall with skylights. Meanwhile, the Farley Post Office would be used as an education center.

? Meanwhile, Diller Scofidio + Renfro took a more philosophical approach, making much of the idea that a new Penn could be "a city within a city" and combining multiple uses into one multi-layered, porous space that would look like "a large sponge-like mass, aerated from every angle." With MSG moved to behind the Farley building on Ninth Avenue, there's room for a variety of spaces, from a spa to a micro theater to a cascading park. Also imagined are a pool, restaurants, and many surfaces on which to project advertisements. Inside the station, they envision drifting food vendors carrying their wares around their waist (like at a baseball stadium), train arrival and departure times projected onto the floor, and real-time video footage of trains approaching and leaving the station aired onto a large screen. Meanwhile, seizing upon the multifunctionality of the space, travelers will be able to use their mobile phones to see how much time they have until their train, and just how many activities (shopping, dining, leisure) are within their reach while they are killing time, something the firm called a "time leash" that is part and parcel of "the architecture of waiting."

After all the presentations, Madison Square Garden issued the following (rather biting) statement:

It's curious to see that there are so many ideas on how to tear down a privately owned building that is a thriving New York icon, supports thousands of jobs and is currently completing a $1 billion transformation. These pie-in-the-sky drawings completely ignore the fact that no viable plans or funding to rebuild Penn Station and relocate MSG actually exist. Not that long ago, MSG spent millions of dollars and three years exploring a move to the Farley building as part of the new vision for Moynihan Station. That plan collapsed for a number of reasons that did not involve MSG, but did involve many of the same people now pressuring MSG to move, including The Municipal Art Society, which created enormous obstacles to achieving the relocation. The restoration of Moynihan Station has been a 20-year discussion that has led to very little progress or funding. The fact that this exercise does not include anyone who actually has detailed knowledge of this issue or understands the realities of this complex project exposes this exercise for exactly what it is. · Four Architecture Firms Challenged To Redesign Penn Station [Curbed]
· All Madison Square Garden coverage [Curbed]
· All Penn Station coverage [Curbed]