Last night, three major architecture practices presented their concepts for the redesign of Grand Central Terminal in New York to The Municipal Art Society of New York. Grand Central…The Next 100 challenged Foster + Partners, Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM) and WXY Studio to re-imagine the public spaces around Grand Central Station as it approaches its 100th birthday in February 2013.
The three invited firms were asked to solve issues of people-flow, public space and congestion as the original terminal - designed by Warren & Wetmore and Reed & Stem - was organised to tackle 75,000 passengers each day. That total now stands at approximately one million passengers a day.
One of New York’s most recognisable landmarks and arguably one of the most architecturally beautiful rail terminals in the world, it is imperative that Grand Central Terminal retains its unique character but is able to operate smoothly and efficiently in a contemporary world.
To Lord Foster, the answer is to widen a number of access points - the 42nd Street entrance in particular - and insert a number of new openings, such as a new concourse under the west entrance plaza. Also in Foster + Partners’ plans is the pedestrianisation of Vanderbilt Avenue which would be anchored by a new civic space between 43rd Street and the Terminal’s west entrance.
This focus on pedestrian pathways is furthered by generating larger underground spaces through the Helmsley Building and widening the pavements on Lexington Avenue which will be brought to life with newly-introduced foliage. On a more aesthetic level, Foster + Partners suggest inserting more trees, sculpture and street cafes to vicinity to enliven the surrounding area.
Lord Norman Foster details: “The Municipal Arts Society’s call to study the Next 100 Years of Grand Central Terminal in the wider context of the city and its public realm represents an important and welcome debate that will help shape the future form of the city. The quality of a city’s public realm reflects the level of civic pride and has a direct impact on the quality of everyday life.
“With the advent of the Long Island Rail Road East Side Access, along with the plan to re-zone the district, there has never been a better opportunity to tackle the issues of public access and mobility around one of the greatest rail terminals in the world.”