Architecture, Public Space
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Floating observation deck over Grand Central Terminal

What does the future of hold for New York City? To maintain its stature as one of the world’s great global cities, New York City continues to cultivate opportunities and nurture innovation in all spheres. MAS Summit for New York City, presented by the Municipal Art Society invited over 1000 innovative city shapers and thought leaders to discuss the summit themes of: Development, Density and Diversity – explored the balancing act of users and uses and the challenge of building a globally competitive city that is socially, economically and environmentally resilient – and liveable – for all New Yorkers.

GrandCentralsNext100_3_©-SOM-Crystal_editImage courtesy SOM / © SOM | Crystal

The Municipal Art Society (MAS) challenged SOM to re-think the public spaces in and around Grand Central Terminal in celebration of the landmark’s centennial. The design challenge coincides with a rezoning proposal from the New York City Department of City Planning, which, if approved, would allow the development of new office towers in the area around Grand Central, thereby increasing the density around the station exponentially.

GrandCentralsNext100_4_©-SOM-Crystal_editImage courtesy SOM / © SOM | Crystal

SOM’s vision proposes three solutions, all of which provide improvements – both quantitative and qualitative – to the quality of public space around the station. The first solution alleviates pedestrian congestion at street level by restructuring Privately Owned Public Spaces (POPS) to create pedestrian corridors through multiple city blocks, connecting Grand Central to nearby urban attractors.

GrandCentralsNext100_2_©-SOM-Crystal_editImage courtesy SOM / © SOM | Crystal

The second is a condensing of the public realm through the creation of additional levels of public space that exist both above and below the existing spaces. These new strata would be funded privately but under public ownership – Privately Funded Public Space (PFPS).

GrandCentralsNext100_6_©-SOM_editImage courtesy SOM / © SOM | Crystal

The third proposal creates an active, 24-hour precinct around Grand Central Terminal in the form of an iconic circular pedestrian observation deck, suspended above Grand Central, which reveals a full, 360-degree panorama of the city. This grand public space moves vertically, bringing people from the cornice of Grand Central to the pinnacle of New York City’s skyline. “Throughout the history of New York City, urban growth has been matched by grand civic gestures,” said SOM partner Roger Duffy. It is a gesture at the scale of the city that acts both as a spectacular experience as well as an iconic landmark and a symbol of a 21st-century New York City.

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill is the master planner and urban designer of Grand Central’s Next 100. All images courtesy of SOM.

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