Penn palimpsest: History becomes the future

February 23, 2017
7:00 p.m.

Vishaan Chakrabarti
Tom Wright
Followed by a discussion with Hilary Ballon and Henry N. Cobb

Presented in association with the Regional Plan Association

In 2016, The New York Times asked Vishaan Chakrabarti and his firm Practice for Architecture and Urbanism (PAU) to develop a proposal for the redevelopment of Penn Station that would address issues not resolved by current initiatives to redevelop the Farley Post Office.  Most notably, the Farley plans do not solve the problem that a very large proportion of daily users of the station cannot use a redeveloped Farley building because of the position of Long Island Railroad and New Jersey Transit platforms, which are largely located between Seventh and Eighth avenues and cannot be moved.

PAU developed a proposal that would repurpose the current Madison Square Garden as a new terminal serving LIRR and New Jersey transit riders to complement the Amtrak station proposed by Governor Cuomo for the Farley building.  Michael Kimmelman, the Times architecture critic, called the idea of creating a new grand entryway to New York from the existing Madison Square Garden structure a possible solution “hiding in plain sight” to the issues that have long bedeviled efforts to redevelop the station. The PAU proposal, presented in an interactive feature in the Times on September 30, has been further developed with support from the Ford Foundation.

On February 23, Vishaan Chakrabarti will present the proposal in a program co-sponsored by The Architectural League and the Regional Plan Association.  RPA president Tom Wright will provide a brief history and policy context of issues surrounding Penn Station redevelopment, and the presentation of the proposal will be followed by a discussion with Wright, architectural and urban historian Hilary Ballon, and architect Henry N. Cobb.

Hilary Ballon is the Deputy Vice Chancellor of NYU Abu Dhabi and the co-curator of New York at Its Core at the Museum of the City of New York. Her scholarship concerns cities and the intersection of architecture, politics, and social life, with a recent focus on New York City. She is the author of New York’s Pennsylvania Stations (2002).

Vishaan Chakrabarti is the founding principal of Practice for Architecture and Urbanism (PAU) and is an associate professor at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning & Preservation, where he teaches architectural design studios and seminars on urbanism. From 2002 to 2005, he served as the director of the Manhattan office of the Department of City Planning. He is the author of A Country of Cities: A Manifesto for an Urban America (2013).

Henry N. Cobb is a founding principal of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners. Throughout his career, he has coupled his professional activity with teaching, most intensively during a five-year term (1980–85) as Studio Professor and Chairman of the Department of Architecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Mr. Cobb received the President’s Medal of The Architectural League in 2015.

Tom Wright is president of Regional Plan Association, an independent urban planning think tank focused on “improving the prosperity, infrastructure, sustainability, and quality of life of the New York-New Jersey-Connecticut metropolitan region.”