Ushering in a railway renaissance for New York
Since the demolition of its original headhouse in 1963, Penn Station has epitomized American neglect for railways. Travelers arrive underground, scuttling through a maze of dim corridors and stairs—it’s an ineffective and unpleasant passenger experience, unbefitting of our city.
Penn’s original train shed being demolished in 1963, with its architectural sibling, the Farley Building, standing in the background. (Norman McGrath)
In 2021, New York turned a corner with the opening of Moynihan Train Hall, located across the street from Penn Station in the historic Farley Building. With its spacious, sun-lit concourse, Moynihan is the city’s grand new gateway, recapturing some of the long-lost magic of train travel for residents, commuters, and tourists alike.
Our joint Amsterdam–New York team combined local knowledge with international experience, developing the new wayfinding strategy and standards, signage, information graphics, and maps.
Guests needed a cohesive experience
The siloed operations of Amtrak, LIRR, and NJ Transit in Penn consistently confused travelers, with three disjointed sets of spaces, services, and signage. At Moynihan, we introduced a single, cohesive wayfinding standard centered foremost around the guest journey.
As a result, the numerous user groups at Moynihan are aided by:
• A single architectural experience with intuitively located services
• Cascading information–relevant info placed at each step of the journey
• Clear and consistent nomenclature on all touchpoints
• Formalized information hierarchy strategy
• Rigorously uniform signage design, pictograms, and color coding throughout the building
A key example of our unification effort was the design of passenger information display screens (PIDS). Working collaboratively with Amtrak and LIRR, we developed displays integrating the wayfinding system typeface, pictograms, and other vernacular—while aligning colors and other graphic details with each stakeholder’s standards. Amtrak and LIRR PIDS are always paired together, so passengers never need to search for their carrier’s information.
The navigation is clear, bold and iconic
Working from an already established design vernacular that evokes the rails and iron work of train travel, we introduced our signature design principles, including pictograms, color coding, and arrow-led layouts. As a result, the signage provides world-class navigation while complementing the grand train hall.
The signage family includes suspended directional signs, illuminated facility identifications, pin-mounted illuminated letters, and surface-mounted graphics. We curated these sign types and sizes to adapt to various user situations, reading distances, architectural contexts, lighting, and surrounding conditions. Internal illumination ensures overhead and directional signs ‘pop’ consistently in the visually rich and dynamic environment.
Color coding is used to organize information. The colors make information easy to find, and also harmonize with the interiors. The color categories allow users to quickly scan information, following a hierarchy of rail information (yellow), amenities (anthracite), and street exits (blue).
Bespoke wayfinding was designed for the West End Concourse connection to Penn Station, which required vinyl wall applications with slightly modified layouts, due to lower ceiling heights and smaller sign locations.
De-complicating the station complex
We designed and illustrated a 3D map, which helps orient and direct visitors throughout the Farley Building’s three levels spanning two city blocks. This map was incorporated into static maps posted conspicuous locations, as well as in digital interactive kiosks.
Additionally, a specially designed Station Overview diagram captures the entire Moynihan Train Hall–Penn Station complex. This crucial tool helps passengers make sense of the connections between train halls, numerous underground concourses/corridors, streets, buildings, subways, ground transportation, and even which side is the front or back of the train.
A brighter future for rail
Following the opening of Moynihan Train Hall, the redevelopment of Penn Station is underway; the next major renovation, LIRR’s 33rd Street Concourse, is set to complete in 2023. Mijksenaar and other involved wayfinding consultants have entered discussions on how we can together deliver clear and consistent wayfinding for passengers throughout the renewing station complex.
More broadly, as the U.S. begins to rekindle interest in rail, we hope Moynihan Train Hall can serve as an inspiration for the kind of passenger experience that can be found nationwide in the near future.
Empire State Development
New York, New York, USA
• Wayfinding master plan
• 3D design
• Digital design
New York Landmarks Conservacy Lucy G. Moses Preservation Award