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Busiest U.S. train station lined up for a makeover

Posting in Architecture

Penn station is trampled upon by millions of passengers a day, and is sorely in need of a makeover -- one that SOM plans to provide.

Architecture, engineering and urban-planning firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM) has released its plans to give the century-old station a dose of TLC, made difficult considering the proximity of Madison Square Garden (MSG). Once MSG's land lease ends in 2023 the station will be free for reconstruction, and so the Municipal Art Society of New York invited four architecture firms to "reimagine" the cultural icon. Last year, SOM presented its vision for the future of Grand Central station, another MAS initiative.

"Nearly 640,000 passengers use Penn Station every day, and yet it does not act as a dignified gateway to one of the world’s greatest cities," said Roger Duffy, FAIA, and Design Partner. "What we propose creates a civic heart for Midtown West -- one that is truly public and open to all -- while allowing New York City to maintain its position as a global center of commerce, industry and culture."

The redesign includes two additional blocks to accommodate high-speed rail lines for the Northeast Corridor, expanded commuter rail service for the entire tri-state area, direct rail connections to JFK, LaGuardia and Newark Airports, a new park, residential areas and space reserved for commerce.

Emphasis is placed on the design being "open and intuitive." A transparent Ticketing Hall will be placed at the center of the site, and the multi-layered station will mix living areas, work, business and play -- as well as moving Madison Square Garden adjacent to the central transport hub.

SOM's design is not meant only to improve the function of Penn station, but to make the hub an icon worthy of the city. "You reach ground and you emerge into a lush new park and you walk to the curb to catch a cab. As you take a left on one of the city's great avenues, you glance back through the rear window, to see floating in the sky above you an entire city of spaces, all centered around the station," Duffy told Wired. "That is how entering New York City should feel."

Read More: Wired | SOM

— By on June 1, 2013, 6:39 AM PST

Charlie Osborne

Contributing Editor

Charlie Osborne is a freelance journalist and photographer based in London. In addition to SmartPlanet, she also writes for business technology website ZDNet and consumer technology site CNET. She holds a degree in medical anthropology from the University of Kent. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure