Moynihan Train Hall in New York Symbolizes Upward Momentum for 2021

New York’s Moynihan Train Hall by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, with areas by Rockwell Group, FX Collaborative, and Elkus Manfredi Architects. Photography by Lucas Blair Simpson © SOM.

On January 1, 2021, the world collectively turned the page, hoping to leave the hardships of 2020 behind. To symbolize forward momentum, New Year’s Day was also when the Moynihan Train Hall in New York was unveiled. The monumental civic project has been decades in the making; it was 1998 when Skidmore, Owings & Merrill began on it with a goal to evoke the Beaux-Arts majesty of the original Pennsylvania Station across the street. The hall, named after late New York senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who proposed the project in the ’90s, occupies 225,000 square feet in the landmarked James A. Farley Post Office Building (where Facebook has leased office space). Among its glorious features is a vaulted skylight, akin to what had capped Penn Station, composed of 500 glass and steel panels that traverse the entire space. Perhaps equal in breathtaking qualities is the art program: three permanent site-specific installations, one each by Stan Douglas, Elmgreen & Dragset, and Kehinde Wiley. The latter’s is a celestial stained-glass triptych fusing Renaissance painting and 18th-century ceiling-fresco styles with Black women and men breakdancing. It crowns the nearly 30-foot ceiling at a main entryway. “Unlike the mythological figures of Renaissance ceilings,” Public Art Fund director and chief curator Nicholas Baume says, “Kehinde’s subjects have the athletic skill to defy gravity, celebrating the joyous expression of Black bodies in motion.”

Go, Kehinde Wiley’s 55-foot-wide triptych in hand-painted stained glass and aluminum, surrounded by decorative gypsum molding, and backlit by an LED panel was commis­sioned by Empire State Development and Public Art Fund for the 33rd Street midblock entry to Moynihan Train Hall. Photography by Nicholas Knight/courtesy of Kehinde Wiley, Sean Kelly, New York, Empire State Development, and Public Art Fund, NY.
Below view of Go by Kehinde Wiley. Photography by Nicholas Knight/courtesy of Kehinde Wiley, Sean Kelly, New York, Empire State Development, and Public Art Fund, NY.
Detail of Go by Kehinde Wiley. Photography by Nicholas Knight/courtesy of Kehinde Wiley, Sean Kelly, New York, Empire State Development, and Public Art Fund, NY.
The Hive, a stainless steel, aluminum, polycarbonate, LED lights, and lacquer installation by Elmgreen & Dragset. Photography by Nicholas Knight/courtesy of Empire State Development and Public Art Fund, NY.
The Hive by Elmgreen & Dragset. Photography by Nicholas Knight/courtesy of Empire State Development and Public Art Fund, NY.
22 April 1924 and 7 August 1934, from Penn Station’s Half Century by Stan Douglas. Photography by Nicholas Knight/courtesy of Empire State Development and Public Art Fund, NY.
22 April 1924 and 7 August 1934 in ceramic ink on glass is one of nine photographic panels from Penn Station’s Half Century. Photography by Nicholas Knight/courtesy of Empire State Development and Public Art Fund, NY.

In honor of Black History Month, the Interior Design team is spotlighting the narratives, works, and craft traditions of Black architects, designers, and creatives. See our full coverage here.

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