Among the numerous hulking eyesores in New York City, Two Penn Plaza manages to make a particularly negative impact, and its placement above Penn Station helps cement the latter’s status as an architectural failure. But now we have a first look at plans to transform the structure completely, created by Bjarke Ingels Group/BIG for developer Vornado.
The surrounding blocks are frequently subject to fantastical renderings. The Hotel Pennsylvania may eventually give way to a 1,200-foot office behemoth designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli. Madison Square Garden’s air rights have also been imagined in the vicinity. But the plans for Two Penn Plaza are grounded in a reality much closer to realization, as Vornado has publicly stated it is going to transform both One and Two Penn Plaza.
BIG’s design for Two Penn Plaza would replace its depressing exterior with an all-glass facade, and the firm crafted two different options for what the building’s new cladding could look like. The two programs are fairly similar, and while glass isn’t always the most exciting material, in this instance it represents a major upgrade.
The revamp’s biggest impact would be on the retail component of Two Penn Plaza. The lower levels of the building will likely have their floorplates reconfigured to maximize available space and visibility, but the more important impact to pedestrians will be the changes to the base of the tower itself. BIG’s plans would offer a major upgrade to the tower’s tenants and New Yorkers alike; instead of leaving glass flush with the original structure, it would extrude over Seventh Avenue, with undulating waves that would provide visual pizzazz while also helping to shield pedestrians from the elements.
Two Penn Plaza measures 1.6 million square feet, and while the overall square footage of the structure is likely to remain roughly the same, the reconfiguration of the retail floors should add some square footage, though no specifics are yet available. The revamp is part of a larger project to transform both One and Two Penn.
While reimagining Penn Station has been a hallmark of many political administrations, the scope of the project is exceedingly large, and local entities like the MTA specialize in incompetence, which means that the flashy renderings revealed by the Cuomo administration this past January are unlikely to translate into reality. Luckily, with Two Penn Plaza’s renovation being spearheaded by a private developer, the chances that complications will take a decade or two to resolve are significantly lessened.
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