After redesigning Times Square, Snøhetta takes on crowded blocks around Penn Station

Architecture City Terrain East Landscape Architecture Urbanism
33rd Street outside Penn Station. (Flickr / Elvert Barnes)

33rd Street outside Penn Station. (Flickr / Elvert Barnes)

The frustratingly congested, obnoxiously loud, and aggressively dirty area around Penn Station is easily the worst part of Manhattan. It is the reason why tourists qualify their vacation stories about New York with “but I could never live there.” Turning the dreadful area around the station (let’s leave the hated station out of it for now) into a pleasant place where people want to spend time and not just push and shove their way through is a Herculean task, but one that Snøhetta has agreed to take on.

Snohetta's Times Square plaza. (Courtesy Snohetta)

Snohetta’s Times Square plaza. (Courtesy Snohetta)

Crain’s reported that Vornado Realty Trust, which owns most of the property around Penn Station, has tapped the high-profile firm to come up with a master plan to spruce up its adjacent buildings and street-level areas. Once that plan is finalized, Vornado may bring in other architecture firms to take on specific projects. But bottom line is that Vornado understands how miserable the area is right now. Mark Ricks, the company’s senior vice president of development, called it the “collision of humanity.” He gets it.

Detail of Snohetta's pavers in Times Square. (COURTESY CENTER FOR ARCHITECTURE)

Detail of Snohetta’s pavers in Times Square. (COURTESY CENTER FOR ARCHITECTURE)

To see how a more pedestrian-friendly transformation would shakeout, Vornado will be turning a one-block stretch of West 33rd Street into a public plaza from mid-July to mid-October. The new space could include tables and chairs, performances, and even yoga classes. StreetsBlog reported that other changes could be coming to 32nd Street as well including a sidewalk extension, planters, and eliminating one lane of traffic.

Vornado will pay for all of the improvements, which should make the area a little less terrible and its property a little more marketable.

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