More than half a century ago, Charles Follen McKim’s greatest project, Pennsylvania Station, faced the wrecking ball. Its demolition was described by architectural historians as the greatest architectural crime in American history. McKim’s spectacular adaptation of Roman baths to modern transportation and the mesmerizing contrast between Roman travertine and modern steel-and-glass proved that tradition and modernity were not in conflict, but in fact complimented each other.

Generations of historians and architects have had to rely on an incomplete set of photographs, floor plans, and drawings to study McKim’s largest commission. What if students and architects today could virtually experience McKim’s sequences of spaces with the experiential quality of moving through them?

This project attempts to achieve that goal. It offers a fresh perspective to the understanding of the history and architecture of the Pennsylvania Station with the aid of Historical Building Information Modeling (HBIM) tools. The project consists of a virtual experience that re-creates the procession along 32nd Street beginning at the pedestrian vestibule, through the Arcade, the General Waiting Room, and ending at the Concourse. These 360 panoramas were rendered with V-Ray in AutoDesk 3Ds Max. The 3D model is built in Rhinoceros.

Experience Penn Station is a growing, interactive website that will eventually include detailed entries, archival photographs, sketches, postcards, and multimedia related to old Penn Station in a single site.

Data Sources

The model is based on information publicized in architecture and engineering journals, newspaper articles, architectural drawings from the Monographs of McKim, Mead & White, the Adolph Alexander Weinman’s papers, as well as the correspondence between the architects and the Pennsylvania Railroad Company. To infer the dimensions of classical elements, Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola’s treatises inform this project. Since the architects derived much of the geometry from Roman sources, other authorities of the Renaissance are ignored. The plates in Franz Sales Meyer’s Handbook of Ornament informed the detailed enrichments at the moldings and other decorations across the station. Additional archival research was conducted at the New-York Historical Society and Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library at Columbia University.

About José Hernández

Here is me showing FRIENDS around a draftING CLASSroom at the Institute of Classical Art & Architecture IN 2019.

José Hernández (1995), was born in Cuernavaca, México, and moved to New York in 2015 to pursue an undergraduate degree in Architecture and Urban Studies at NYU. A classicist and conservator in training, he decided to devote some of his time to merging his love of classical architecture with his love of 3D modeling.

José is currently pursuing an M.S. in Historic Preservation at the University of Pennsylvania, expecting to graduate in May 2022. Upon completion of his M.S., he aspires to eventually work in a firm that specializes in the conservation and restoration of historic buildings and monuments.

His project, Experience Pennsylvania Station, won a Stanford White Award from the Institute of Classical Art & Architecture (ICAA) in 2020 and was featured in Architectural Digest.

Thanks for visiting!