If I had to leave New York City and could only take one building with me, I think it might have to be Grand Central Terminal. I’m sorry Mies, Saarinen, and Wright, but it’s the building I love the most. I love that it’s free, I love that subways, trains, and taxis all meet there, and I love that if you tell someone to meet a stranger in the city tomorrow at noon without saying where, they’d likely head to the clock (aka the information booth) at Grand Central. I love that, in the tradition of Central Park, Broadway, and The East River, it has an obvious, unforgettable name. I love the intricacy of the many levels, its well-known secrets, and its utter contrast with its surroundings. And I love that you can walk straight across the chaos of the main floor while tourist and travelers and locals all flow around you.
I love the rats nibbling at cables outside, I love the many clocks throughout the building all ticking and tocking away to keep you from missing your train, most of which seem to have come from the Self Winding Clock Company of New York.
I love the grand scale of it, and most especially I love the intimate details. I love that even an air vent is covered in oak branches, and rivets are elevated to ornament. I love the mythology carved in the walls and the history worn into the steps. I love the great glass windows, which double as passageways — I snuck up into them once a long time ago, and I will never forget the view down into the hubbub below, silent until I drew near an open ventilation window that let a faint echo in. And of course I love the beautiful sky, full of constellations. It never fails to amaze me when I walk in. Here in the city we don’t get to see a lot of stars, so it’s nice to be reminded that they are nonetheless there, looking down on us.
I love that there’s a building this beautiful, this grand, this well thought-out, with no entry charge. This is, in so many ways, what architecture should be. I wish we could have more buildings this thoughtful, this generous, and this adaptable. Yes, the style is practically antediluvian, but because the design is flexible and elegant, it’s still an eminently useful building, still an inspiring building, still, in many ways, the center of New York.