March 21, 2017

Just deserts.

  Any city gets what it admires, will pay for, and, ultimately, deserves.”  Thus began The New York Time’s poignant ‘Farewell to Penn Station,’ dated October 30, 1963. 

  “Even when we had Penn Station, we couldn’t afford to keep it clean.  We want and deserve tin-can architecture in a tin-horn culture.  And we will probably be judged not by the monuments we build but by those we have destroyed.”

  Comparing the old marvel of architectural ingenuity to the new edifice of corporate and commercial ambition, Vincent Scully of Yale University remarked, “One entered the city like a god; one scuttles in now like a rat.”

  The comment, like the destruction that brought down the original Penn Station, a steel and glass shrine to transportation, an elegant Beaux-Arts temple with its 150 foot high ceilings and a waiting room modeled after the Roman Baths of Caracalla, was apt.

    Some 600,000 commuters, riding Amtrak, Long Island Rail Road and New Jersey Transit, now suffer Penn Station every day. That makes it probably the busiest transit hub in the Western world, busier than Heathrow Airport in London, busier than Newark, La Guardia and Kennedy airports combined.” 

  “To pass through Grand Central Terminal, one of New York’s exalted public spaces, is an ennobling experience, a gift.  To commute via the bowels of Penn Station, just a few blocks away, is a humiliation.”

    In the oft asked question that historians, politicians, city planners, preservationists, visionaries and dreamers pose: What is the value of architecture? The answer might be as simple as this:  It can be measured, culturally, humanely and historically, in the gulf between the two. As in exaltation or humiliation.

Images: Original Penn Station, destroyed in 1963
Quote: “Farewell to Penn Station,” New York Times, Oct 30, 1963
Quote: New York Times, February 8, 2012

1 comment:

Anja said...

Thank you!