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What Would It Take to Rebuild the Original Penn Station?

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It's been over 50 years, but for many, the destruction of Charles Follen McKim's original Pennsylvania Station still stings (hey, even Mad Men mourned its passing). But now, there is a hopeful (if improbable) plan from Richard W. Cameron—principal designer at Atelier & Co—to bring back the civic jewel of a long-gone New York.

According to Traditional Building's's Clem Labine, Cameron's plan has three main goals: to rebuild and replicate the grandeur of the original Penn Station; to create a modern and efficient transit hub; and to redevelop the area around Penn Station to "create a world-class urban destination—like Rockefeller Center." And while it certainly reads like a farfetched, wishful fantasy, Cameron and Traditional Building make a convincing argument for the project.

Using McKim Mead & White's designs pulled from the New-York Historical Society, the plan argues that unlike the current Penn Station's "underground maze that rivals the Minotaur's Labyrinth," the of the original's "logical layout" allows for many "adaptations for modern uses without compromising the basic architectural beauty of the structure." According to Cameron's plan, moving Amtrak operations (which accounts for less than 10 percent of traffic flow) across Eighth Avenue to the proposed Moynihan Station would provide ample room for the LIRR and NJ Transit lines, which both service over 500,000 daily commuters.

In terms of money, the plan estimates that a reimagined Penn Station would cost only $2.5 billion—almost half of the cost Santiago Calatrava's World Trade Center transit hub, which serves far fewer daily passengers.


[Watercolor by Jason Grimes, Atelier & Co.]

Moreover, Traditional Building—anticipating criticism from the "Modernist establishment"—argues that the Rebuild Penn Station plan would be a radical act of "civic redemption" in a Manhattan that's "jammed with Modernist glass-and-steel abstractions." Essentially blowing a hole in the argument that replicating the past stifles innovation and creativity. The magazine also points to the development boom that followed the construction of the High Line as proof of how building aesthetically pleasing public spaces benefits the city as a whole.

"We owe it to future generations to fill the hole in the physical and spiritual fabric of the city created by the barbaric acts of 1963," writes Labine. "The plans are in place; all that's needed is political will."
· Rebuilding McKim's Penn Station [Traditional Building]
· All Penn Station coverage [Curbed]