“There is no greater hive of scum and villainy.”
Okay, that’s a bit harsh, but navigating Penn Station is no walk in the park, Madison Square Garden or otherwise. Besides its continued existence as a travesty of architectural/cultural preservation (the destruction of the site’s original station spurred on the formation of the Landmarks Preservation Commission), its navigability from a commuter’s perspective is questionable. As first-time visitors (and last-time visitors, am I right?) can attest, the counterintuitive layout and swirling masses combine to create a sensory overload that makes NY Penn infamous.
To address this glaring human factors problem, designer John Schettino laid the groundwork for the New York Penn Station Atlas, an in-progress project to help travelers navigate what is apparently “the most used train station in the Western Hemisphere”.
The project is still in its testing stages, but as its site assures, the proof of concept is there. The Penn Station Atlas should manifest as a collection of digital maps offering different sets of information as necessary, which point out everything from platforms to restrooms and more. To be sure, Municipal Art Society executive vice president Mary Rowe pondered, “His work underscores a key question: Should we really need an atlas to navigate our city’s main intercity railroad station?”
That's a good question. Of course, the final product is still a ways away, so best of luck to Mr. Schettino.
Back in June, developer Vornado got in touch with architecture and design firm Snohetta to draft a master plan for the surrounding area, i.e. the no man’s land between Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen. At the time, one Vornado executive described the area in its present state as “the collision of humanity”. Snohetta includes in its portfolio the redesign of Times Square into the pedestrian-friendly (and forest-friendly) plaza that it is today, so they probably have what it takes to turn the peri-Penn area into something more useful for the community.
Photo via Wikimedia Commons user Rickyrab.