How Peter Pennoyer Designed Moynihan Train Hall’s Showstopping New Clock
Eventually, this year seems destined to bring new light. A vaccine on the way, a forthcoming change in administration, and now, in New York City, a glassy architectural feat that helps remedy one of Manhattan’s most glaring albatrosses. Moynihan Train Hall, which is defined principally by its excellent use of a transparent and skylighted ceiling, is a sure upgrade for the dour warren that is Penn Station.
Many have already waxed poetic about this new SOM-designed transit hub, which officially opened January 1. But one smaller story—that of its new Art Deco–style clock—has yet to be fully told. Designed by AD100 architect Peter Pennoyer, the piece is bound to become an icon in its own right, as well as a frequent meeting point. Speaking of his aesthetic inspiration, Pennoyer says to AD PRO, “I have always admired the geometric patterns in the metal spandrels on Art Deco skyscrapers by architects such as Ralph Walker and Ely Jacques Kahn. Walker’s One Wall Street is a splendid example of how solid architectural surfaces can be shaped into carved forms that evoke geometric sculpture.”
Indeed. And while specific famous clocks were also looked toward as references (Grand Central’s timepiece included), it’s clear that Pennoyer’s assignment was not only about artistry. “This was a rush job. Due to some bureaucratic snafus, we were awarded the commission late—in May 2020—and had to deliver the finished clock in early December.” Of the myriad stakeholders involved, Pennoyer points out, “Everyone was encouraging, but let’s say it was a few more parties at the table than we are used to when we design a building—and this was just a clock.”
Still, logistical quandaries abounded, such as the size and weight of the design; 4,000 pounds was the allotted max. But thanks to years spent working in the industry, Pennoyer had a strong network on which to rely. “This project proved the value of long-term relationships with fabricators and vendors,” he says. “Hyde Park Moldings has built many of our most challenging vaults, domes, and other elements. We challenged them to be the lead fabricator and coordinate with Americlock on the structure and works. They jumped into the project and made it happen on time against all odds.”
Perhaps not too long from now, Pennoyer will find himself paused below his own geometric timepiece checking the latest train departure times. A frequent Amtrak rider who often travels through Providence, Rhode Island, during the summer, Pennoyer will likely also be soaking in his full surroundings. Speaking of the hall in general, he says, “This outcome is thrilling to see.”