Penn Station VR
Penn Station VR
This project was an exercise of large-scale VR recreations of now demolished sites. The location chosen, Penn Station, may be very familiar to many New Yorkers as the ugly, overcrowded train station in the heart of Manhattan. With that said, few are aware of Penn Station’s beautiful origins. This series of VR spaces takes photos from the original beaux arts and neoclassical building (demolished in 1963) and uses them as references in this accurate reconstruction. Understanding the enormous scale of this building speaks to the amazing architectural and engineering feats that were nearly lost to time forever.
A Brief History of Penn Station
Designed right at the turn of the 20th century by the prominent architecture firm, McKim, Mead, & White, Penn Station served as the central hub for trains from faraway places like Chicago and Miami. Utilizing a new system of electric trains and undersea tunnels, Penn Station allowed trains to arrive in the center of Midtown, Manhattan while obeying the city's recent ban on steam engines within city lines. After 5 decades of disrepair and use, the original structure was torn down much to the outcry of architectural historians and scholars. Nothing of the original building remains aside from its location. Landmarks like Madison Square Garden and Penn Plaza now sit in space of the original Penn Station building while the new Penn Station is now completely housed underground.
The Research Process
Thanks to the prominence of the space and its important historical significance to New York, there is an abundance of visual information available from the original Penn Station. The main difficulty came in accurate material matching and ensuring the collection of reference photos used came from the same time period. The space underwent numerous renovations that drastically altered the station’s original design. By reading written accounts of the construction process, collecting colorized postcards, and using inspiration from other iconic Manhattan landmarks like Grand Central Station, I was able to create the most accurate rendering possible of the original design.
Without access to original plans for the building and a limited number of photographs available, the process of construction of the space remains meticulous and intensive. The complexity of beaux art design and the intricacy of engineering leaves the modeling process slow and steady. I hope to have full recreations of the concourse (right), restaurant, shops, entrance, waiting rooms, and façade done soon. Hopefully, along with a team of other dedicated designers, this project can reach completion within the next year.