The New York Penn Station Atlas


Rethinking wayfinding

Penn Station is a place where a huge amount of environmental information intersects with the individual needs of millions of people. Helping those people to locate and reach their goals in the most effective way means responding to diverse contexts with relevant content; a task that necessitates options, different perspectives, multiple maps – an atlas.

Penn Station Atlas documentation book:

The New York Penn Station Atlas uses 2D diagrams and 3D models as the basis of a comprehensive set of maps that explain station layouts, pinpoint key locations, and diagram clear paths that show exactly how to get from station entrances to each of Penn’s most-used features. The contents of the completed Atlas, every map, diagram and image will be available online for viewing or downloading to any computer, tablet or phone, all free.

The Atlas is designed to put simple and effective navigation tools directly into the hands of anyone who wants to know how to get from A to B in Penn Station. The practical effect of this project will be to equip people with maps that are best suited for the context of their needs. Using context to filter information means that a person who just wants to locate a ticket counter doesn’t have to visually sift through the entire contents of Penn Station in order to find that place. Instead The Atlas uses spotlight maps to clearly distinguish that location, the same way that it can call out any important individual feature in the station.

And because getting a grasp on the Penn environment is often impeded by its many obscured and compartmentalized areas, The Atlas uses models and images to provide visual context for the real spatial relationships between levels, across floors and with the exterior. As urban planner Kevin Lynch writes: “in the process of way-finding, the strategic link is the environmental image, the generalized mental picture of the exterior physical world that is held by an individual”. The Atlas will help to visualize that sometimes hard-to-see picture.

Penn Station Atlas project website:

The Future of Penn Station, a public forum
organized by John Schettino. (Event is over. Thank you to the over eight hundred people who attended at The Great Hall of The Cooper Union!)

“A valiant attempt to inject rationality into the human experience of Penn Station.” Mary Rowe, Executive Vice President,
Municipal Art Society of New York

“Will be a far more effective wayfinding device than simple two dimensional maps” Michelle Young,
Founder, Untapped Cities

“Bold designer aims to make Penn Station less terrible”Amy Plitt,
CurbedNY, (Curbed Top Stories 2015)

“How Getting Hopelessly Lost Inspired What Might be NYC’s Most Important Wayfinding App”
Susan Merritt, AIGA Eye on Design
https://eyeondesign/ pennatlas

independent J/S/D initiative
designer: john schettino