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Moynihan Train Hall, New York, SOM

A Return to the Age of Railway: Moynihan Train Hall in New York

“We will probably be judged not by the monuments we build but by those we have destroyed” wrote Ada Louise Huxtable, the great architecture critic from the New York Times at the beginning of the 1960s. Her protest was directed at the demolition of what may have been Manhattan’s largest Beaux-Arts building, the entrance hall at Pennsylvania Station, which had been erected in 1910 by McKim, Mead & White. In its place, a consortium of the City of New York and private investors built a new structure: Madison Square Garden. On the lower levels of the event arena, New York’s second-largest train station languished in darkness.

Fifty years on, a similar public-private collaborative partnership including SOM has reintroduced the characteristic entrance to Penn Station - not at its original location, but on a neighbouring block, in the same place where the James A. Farley Post Office, built in 1913 also according to a design prepared by McKim, Mead & White, had been erected above the railway lines. Initial plans for the transformation were created as far back as the 1990s; the old-new entrance hall was finally inaugurated at the beginning of 2021. Over two storeys, waiting lounges, information booths, ticket kiosks and a food hall surround the skylit heart of the complex: in the old mail-sorting room, the architects had the imposing, previously covered trussed rafters of steel exposed and then commissioned Stuttgart’s structural engineering firm Schlaich Bergermann Partner to design a lightweight roof construction of steel and glass for the spaces in between. The transparent roof has a surface area of 60 x 45 m; it consists of four vaulted, freeform lattice structures which lie both on the roof edges around the hall as well as on the historical trussed rafters. The ribs of the lattice are of welded T-shaped steel profiles which decrease in web height even as the glass panels increase in size towards the middle of the roof. The lattice, which is rectilinear in the floor plan, is crisscrossed with slender, diagonal cables. On the vertical plane, it has been reinforced with prestressed cable ties to withstand lateral loads.

Further information:

Monument preservation: Building Conservation Associates, Inc.
TGA-planning: Jaros Baum & Bolles
Engineers, geotechnics: Langan Engineering & Environmental Services, Inc.
Light planning: Domingo Gonzales Associates

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