John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Architects honor New York's revered train station with a proposal that might make you want to dunk.
Never has an architectural proposal made me want to dunk so badly.
This historic reimagining of the Manhattan skyline, which sets my brain Jell-O all a-jiggle with excitement, is Skidmore, Owings & Merrill's plan for improving the looks and functionality of Grand Central Station. How did this incredible concept come into being? Earlier this year, the Municipal Art Society of New York asked architects to celebrate the building's 100th anniversary by submitting visionary schemes for its next hundred years. SOM partners Roger Duffy and T.J. Gottesdiener, who must've been racking triple-doubles all night long, looked at the revered station and thought: Give it a hoop.
Not that they call it that. The delightful discus is actually a "circular pedestrian observation deck" that moves up and down on a power assist from its supporting skyscrapers. Sightseers who want to experience the city in a different way can hop onto this levitating public space and be treated to a sky-high panorama of New York in minutes. Whether you think that's a great plan or not might have a lot to do with how your stomach reacts to this image:
The hovering ring wasn't the only thing SOM talked about when it presented its Grand Central humdinger to the Municipal Art Society last week (along with Foster + Partners and WXY Architecture + Urban Design). The architects would also like to stick floors of public space beneath and above the existing structure and vein the surrounding blocks with pedestrian corridors to reduce street congestion. But the world's biggest Life Saver is definitely the crown jewel of their submission, with them effusing: "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."
This proposal comes at a time when New York is deciding whether to allow more skyscrapers around Grand Central. If the municipal-planning scale tips in favor of the developers, this god-almighty loop could conceivably shadow Manhattanites in their super-dense future metropolis. Think about that as you let these concept drawings sink in (look closely at the third image, and you can see Carmelo Anthony hanging from the rim):
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