The Design Observer Group


Posted 01.28.13


Mark Lamster

Grand Central Turns 100




What makes a New Yorker a New Yorker? There are many answers, but one at the top of the list is this: the native knows there's no such thing as Grand Central Station. It's Grand Central Terminal, and on February 2 it celebrates its centennary

There is no more beloved building in this city, and none more deserving of adulation, or offering more lessons about what makes architecture special. GCT has shaped the growth of Manhattan and it has served as the city's ennobling gateway. In the 1960s, the fight to save it from development inspired the preservation movement. (We should be on guard for current plans that might harm it, but this is not the place for that.) It looks great on film, and it's the subject of endless legend, from its reversed ceiling mural to the accoustical tricks of its vaulting to its various mysterious spaces known only to the chosen few

We are of an age that is obsessed with the superficial, but GCT resists those who would judge it from the outside. It's hard to get a good picture of the building's exterior, which is belted by an elevated roadway that keeps you from an easy frontal view; the rear is blocked out by its neighbors. The money shot of GCT is taken inside, of busy commuters hurrying in all directions across its main concourse in a kind of urban poetry. 

What makes the building so dynamic is how it works in section and plan, forming an almost absurd number of interlocking levels and spaces. They are a joy to explore, and for the most part are a wonder of circulatory function. And of course they are beautiful. 

There's no better way to celebrate GCT than with a visit, and while you're there you might want to stop in at Posman's and pick up Sam Roberts's new history of the place. All aboard. 

@marklamster