Threshold Experience
Penn Station, New York, NY

As vital interstices, thresholds enable the negotiation between two given encounters in the context of flows, sensory overload, and spatial challenges. A grand public plaza, New York’s largest, welcomes travelers, commuters, and residents to engage the city’s most important threshold. Transit has enabled the flows of money, people and capital in and out of the city from naval infrastructure enabling trade to rail infrastructure enabling skyscrapers. As Johnathan Mahler says in the New York Times, “cities create density, and density creates growth.” New York is torn between a nostalgic dream of preservation and a continuous cycle of reinvention - a focus on human experience vs on growth. This threshold both delineates one condition from another, as well as connects them.
The new Penn Station provides the threshold experience for New York City. As the place of arrival, the station enables the condition between travel and occupation, chaos and stasis, grandeur and the everyday, past and future. Users naturally weave in and out through a permeable edge to experience this tension between the city’s past and future. Within Penn Plaza on the East a framed aperture reveals the active tracks below, and steps cascade down terraced levels to illuminate the constant flows enabled by mass-transit, the city’s largest source of access to opportunity. Within the newly carved out Farley building on the West a frame guides the view above towards the Empire State building, amongst other massive towers. As users emerge into the city, frames and filters construct this dual narrative of the city. This threshold hopes to rediscover the human dimension in a disembodied world.

Now Arriving: A Manhattan Transit Landscape
Gary Hilderbrand Studio
Harvard Graduate School of Design