Radical design proposals floated for new Penn Station


June 4, 2013

Interior view of Penn Station by DS+R Design (Image: DS+R Design)

Interior view of Penn Station by DS+R Design (Image: DS+R Design)

Image Gallery (45 images)

Like many US railway stations, New York’s Penn Station is a shadow of its former self. With redevelopment of the station hindered by its location under Madison Square Garden, the Municipal Art Society (MAS) of New York hopes to relocate the gardens and rebuild the station for the 21st century. Last week, the MAS announced four possible designs for Penn Station and Madison Square Garden as part of its Design Challenge aimed at replacing or remodelling the current structure.

The brief of the competition was to reimagine Pennsylvania or Penn Station as an “urban gateway” and move Madison Square Garden to a new location to allow for expansion. If realized, this redevelopment would be the most radical change to the station since the original building was controversially demolished in 1963 and rebuilt with the current Madison Square Garden on top of it.

The competition was prompted by expiration of Madison Square Garden’s permit, which its owners wish to have renewed in perpetuity. However, the MAS, in partnership with the Regional Plan Association, formed the Alliance for a New Penn Station with the objective of renewing the permit for only ten years to prompt redevelopment of the site. The final decision on the permit will be made by the New York City Council in July and the Design Challenge is intended to help build the case for a limited permit and redevelopment.

The Winning Designs

Diller Scofidio + Renfro with Josh Sirefman

Dubbed “Penn Station 3.0,” the Diller Scofidio + Renfro ( DS+R) with Josh Sirefman design is presented as a city within a city and “a porous and light-­filled civic structure filled with diverse new programs that reflect the hybridity of contemporary urban life.” The designers see it as not only a transport hub, but as a destination in itself. It consists of layers divided into various activities based on time taken, from fast activities on top to slower ones below. The idea is that the structure will have a cascade effect as one descends to the trains and the layers “decelerate” in time. In this design, Madison Square Garden would be relocated to the west end of the Farley building on Ninth Avenue, with access to Eighth Avenue.

H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture

The H3 Hardy design sees itself as a way to improve New York’s essential systems. In this case, these systems are seen as public spaces, entertainment, environment, transportation, education and economic development. The key to this is relocating Madison Square Garden to a 16-acre (6.4 ha) site on the west side waterfront. The project would not only involve a new Penn Station, but also an eight-track high-speed rail expansion going south, improved amenities and three-acre (1.2 ha) public park, retail complex, and two-­acre (0.8 ha) roof garden, a new Center of Education and 24 million feet (222.9 ha) of private development.

SHoP Architects

SHoP Architects plan to expand the main hall of Penn Station to turn it into a bright, airy space that the designers see as the center of a new destination district called Gotham Gateway. Security and rail capacity would be improved and there would be new parks and amenities with a view to attracting private investment to help pay for the project, as well as a new High Line to connect with the relocated Madison Square Garden.


The SOM design wants to expand Penn Station over two more blocks with high-speed rail lines for the Northeast corridor for better commuter rail service and direct rail connections to John F. Kennedy, LaGuardia, and Newark Liberty International airports. The main focus would be a ticketing hall dominated by a dramatic oval skylight. A dedicated vehicular drop-off and pedestrian connections to the surrounding area would also be included. Retail spaces would be integrated into traffic areas, so that the station blends seamlessly into the city itself. Expanded train platforms would make up the lowest level.

Source: MAS via The Verge

About the Author
David Szondy David Szondy is a freelance writer based in Monroe, Washington. An award-winning playwright, he has contributed to Charged and iQ magazine and is the author of the website Tales of Future Past. All articles by David Szondy

WOW. Imagination is a BEAUTIFUL thing. I could see this winning the bid and becoming a major city hangout. Cost is going to be interesting though..

Brooks Hubbard

main picture look a bit like Lisbon Oriente Rail Station. See

Looks great but it is horribly uncomfortable. Rail station have to have big holes in them to let the trains in and out. If you do not model the design in a wind tunnel, you could end up with dust in your eye, like the Portuguese.

Dirk Scott

Bout time station gets modernized but Id have replica of Orig station for a Museum center & for dining above, below the Newer sections alone. & use site for TV & movie production

Stephen Russell

Wow, this will be difficult to build, but most architect wet dreams are hard to build.


I love the inner design, or at least these visuals of it.

Dirk Scott - thanks for the Lisbon station photo! I'm sure that station did look more stylish and cool on sketches than it does now, in reality. I actually find the photo a bit depressing. Good point about airflow.

The main thing I find disappointing about the Penn Station concept is that the overall layout surrenders to the city grid. The city block layout defines where it begins and ends. Even if it takes the size of several blocks, it is still shaped by them. Very sad in a way. I'm so hoping for architects to break these barriers and to start "fading" their designs into their surroundings. Build things at an angle! Use land features, topography (well ok not in this case) and other surroundings to define shapes! Break the grid!


Go back and look at all the slides! All the previous comments seem to have taken these four schemes as a single competition entry, but they're not! Four radically different schemes by: DS+R H3 Hardy SHoP SOM Not sure which one I favor, maybe SOM.


I really like the more open air design sketches and would like to see the fluid transition from surface to sub terrain become a reality in New York City. We need new for our infrastructure. Old New York has been old too long now..



You are quite mistaken. The original Penn Station, demolished in 1963, was a magnificent structure with the "open air" design you ascribe only to the future. Google the images. Virtually all New Yorkers agree that the current Madison Square Garden and the Penn Station beneath it are architectural atrocities. They were constructed thanks to the attitude of "We need new for our infrastructure. Old New York has been old too long now." These concepts are better than what we have now, but compared to the grand Penn Station that once was, they're not much better than generic shopping malls.


You are right BeWalt, real concrete is really depressing when compared with Architect's drawings. Using and being in the Lisbon Oriente rail station is quite different from looking at the whole building from a distance.

Dirk Scott
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