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Columbia Students Propose Ideas for Signage on Farley

Last spring a Columbia University historic preservation studio tackled the Farley Post Office, a city landmark. The students came up with a bunch of creative ideas and a list of preservation values to guide the Moynihan Station project. We’ll have more posts about their preservation analysis in the coming weeks.

One of the interesting issues addressed in their final report is signage on the Farley Building, the future home of Madison Square Garden and Moynihan West. Let’s be honest: MSG likes its signage. As the students put it:

rendering moynihan station art projections banners

”MSG has proven that it has no qualms when it comes to advertising: earlier this year, it had a particularly obscene six-story vinyl banner for the movie “Norbit” stretched across the arena. Its marquee on Seventh Avenue is a similar detractor – outsized and obtrusive. While this approaches the gray area of taste, this mode of signage is out of step with the old and dignified Farley building. Moreover, signage can physically damage the historic fabric, the character, and unity of the Farley Complex.”

Is it possible for MSG to advertise without damaging or detracting from the historic exterior and interior fabric of the Farley Post Office? The Columbia students think exterior illumination and projections could be part of the solution (at least on the 31st and 33rd St. facades). They cite the temporary Christmas projections in Grand Central and the work of artists like Krzysztof Wodiczko, who uses historic buildings as canvases for his video art, as examples. Projectors would be hung from structures directly opposite the Farley building to promote nightime events, sponsors, promotional media and exterior decoration.

rendering moynihan station north front

For the Eighth and Ninth Avenue facades the students wanted to protect “the civic character” of the Train Hall and Post Office and proposed free standing kiosks. Describing the proposal pictured at right: “The free standing kiosks, consisting of a LED video screen and a base, are set back from the facade, directing to Ninth Avenue. Image also shows proposed ADA compliant entrances, created at the base of the building to accessthe concourse level. If the space in the moats is required for retail use, a less invasive suggestion is covering them in glass, maintaining the distance that enhances the monumentality of the building.”

What do you think about the idea of projected signage on Farley? MSG will probably want visible advertising during the day, but it sure beats giant posters of your favorite Knick, let alone Norbit, draped over the building. What about the kiosks?