Nicholas Venezia, Grand Central Terminal (2012)
The main concourse is home to my first truly emotional, conscious connection to architecture. I wrote the following words on a blog post nearly two years ago in recounting that experience:
It was December 31st around 7:50 pm, a few hours after the sun had set, a few more until the ball would drop. It was my first trip back to New York City since starting architecture school six months earlier. Although I had been there dozens of times before, nothing had prepared me for this night. I was waiting to meet up with a few good friends of mine. We had chosen the center of the main concourse, the big clock. It should be no surprise that we were not the only ones.
The first architectural detail I remember is the higher-than-human-scale ceiling that seemed appropriate for the occasion. As I try to recount the scene from where I was standing, I cannot help but give way to a perspective that takes me above the crowd, looking down on all of us in our dark, winter outfits – our small bodies contrasting with the muted stone walls and floors. The visitors in motion glide seamlessly around each other until they leave the scene or pause to find their awaiting embrace. Impermanent as we move in and out at a hurried pace, for any given moment we are all guests of the station, dancing together under the varying tones of warm, electric lighting. The arched windows above introduce us to the glow of the surrounding city, shadows cast in all the deep layers of those high ceilings. Somewhere from within those layers, speakers play something classical and recognizable to one with little knowledge of the genre, at just the right volume; loud enough to hear if you pay attention, but soft enough to ignore if you are caught up in the exuberant sounds of the ground floor. The emotions and movements of the room mimick the music; there are adagios and long rests between allegros and crescendos. I wait and watch for about twenty minutes as my friends run late. I stand there hoping perhaps they had forgotten about me so I can stay and watch for another few hours.
It is clear from the extra long embraces, the occasional tears and the genuine outpouring of love that some of the guests had not seen each other in years. Many spoke languages unfamiliar to me, which made their tones and expressions that much more revealing in my observance. The room radiated in a way I had never felt before. The architecture certainly played a role, but none of the station’s individual architectural characteristics really mattered at that given time. The space was perfect in facilitating a unique human experience, as if nothing else could have possibly been in its place.
I was happy with the timing of this competition. I had drawn the main concourse last summer for a friend of mine but was unhappy with the results. This competition gave me a little incentive to try again, and to do the space some justice.
Part of the exhibition Grand Central Sketchbook: Designers Dream, on view now at the New York Transit Museum
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