Moynihan Train Hall / SOM

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
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Text description provided by the architects. The new Daniel Patrick Moynihan Train Hall, named for the visionary United States senator who proposed the project in the 1990s, will open its doors on January 1 to New Yorkers and travelers from the Long Island Rail Road, Amtrak, the New York City Subway, and the entire northeast region. Moynihan Train Hall expands the Pennsylvania Station complex with a 225,000-square-foot rail hub in the landmark James A. Farley Post Office Building.

“By connecting to our architectural past through the adaptive reuse of the Farley Post office building, we are breathing new life into New York, and recreating an experience no one has had here in decades.”Laura Ettelman, SOM Managing Partner, continues, “SOM has been working on this project since 1998 - for more than two decades. Our deep commitment to this project has been fueled by the profound belief that New York City is better because of projects like this.”

That original Pennsylvania Station was designed by McKim, Mead & White in 1910. It was a skylit, Beaux-Arts masterpiece that celebrated travelers’ arrival to New York City. After its demolition in 1965, only its concourses and platforms remained, and they were all underground in a space downgraded to accommodate only 200,000 people.

Five decades later, the number of people passing through the station every day swelled to more than 600,000, while the Farley Building – also designed by McKim, Mead & White in 1913, with a grand staircase and colonnade that echoed the firm’s design for Penn Station – had become 95 percent vacant. Residing above Penn Station’s tracks, the Farley Building was the perfect place for a new train station.

“One of the most remarkable things about this project is the way that it transforms an under-utilized and under-appreciated building into a new, inviting front door for this city,” said Roger Duffy, the retired SOM Design Partner who led the project for the firm. “The train hall is at the core of this transformation. It is designed with lightness and warmth, which combine to reestablish the essence of what it means to come to New York.”

The new train hall, located in the 31,000-square-foot former mail sorting room, is designed with a dramatic skylight that traverses the entire space – much like the original Penn Station did in 1910. The skylight, designed with the structural engineering firm Schlaich Bergermann Partner, is arranged in four catenary vaults. To support the structure, SOM uncovered the building’s three massive steel trusses, which had been invisible to the postal workers a century ago, and chose to reveal them as a major focal point of the design. With a web-like structure, the bolted trusses add an extra sense of lightness to the train hall.

Each of the four catenary vaults is composed of more than 500 glass and steel panels that come together to form a moiré effect. At the edges of each vault, the panels thicken to sustain greater structural loads, while at the apexes, which span 92 feet above the concourse, the panels’ depth lightens to enhance the airy ambiance of the space. The trusses are each equipped with new lighting fixtures that illuminate the train hall at night. On the middle truss, a new clock – designed by Pennoyer Architects and inspired by the analog clocks that were once prevalent at the original Penn Station – marks the center of the room. Along the eastern wall, four large LED screens feature New York State imagery designed by Moment Factory and help brighten the train hall at night.

Hospitality spaces – including ticketing kiosks and information kiosks designed by SOM, Amtrak waiting rooms on the concourse level designed by Rockwell Group, an Amtrak Metropolitan Lounge by FX Collaborative, and a food hall designed by Elkus Manfredi – surround the space on two floors to establish an inviting experience that provides all the amenities a commuter will need. The signage and wayfinding identify the hospitality and platform entries by color to enable intuitive circulation through the station.

Moynihan Train Hall connects to nine platforms and 17 tracks that primarily service the Long Island Railroad and Amtrak. The station connects directly with the Eighth Avenue Subway, and plans are in the works to connect the entire Penn Station complex, including Moynihan Train Hall, to MetroNorth and AirTrain JFK. Moynihan Train Hall is accessible through a variety of entrances. As part of the first phase of its construction, two new entrances on Eighth Avenue, designed by SOM, flank the Farley Building’s staircase and lead directly into the train hall and the new West End Concourse – a significant widening of an existing concourse that serves as a connection between Penn and Moynihan.

At entrances on 31st and 33rd Streets, SOM implemented new canopies to help identify the civic presence of the train hall and complement the arched windows of the Farley Building. Art installations by Elmgreen & Dragset at the 31st Street entrance and Kehinde Wiley Studio at 33rd Street, as well as a second skylight create an inviting experience, draw passengers in.

The entrance on Ninth Avenue reshapes the Annex – an expansion to the Farley Building constructed in the 1930s that has served as a parking garage and office space for most of its life – into a 21st-century, mixed-use anchor for the neighborhood.

The entrance is flanked by restaurants and responds directly to the massive new developments to the west of the station. It aligns directly with the entry into Manhattan West. Inside, an east-west corridor is surrounded by retail and additional dining amenities as part of the project’s private development and combines with the concourses to reach 486,000 square feet of space. Within this portion of the Farley Building, vertical circulation points lead to 730,000 square feet of offices for Facebook spread across four floors above, along with offices for Amtrak around the train hall. The retail, much like that of Grand Central Terminal, elevates Moynihan Train Hall into a vibrant hub of activity – and reimagines the Annex anew.

Moynihan Train Hall / SOM