New York Daily Photo Analytics

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Stain Your Soul

If you find anything about this photo of Pennsylvania Railroad Station attractive at all, then I am pleased, because this place is one of the least liked in New York City. Perhaps you have to be a native New Yorker or architecture critic to really appreciate this. And I have misled you by using a photo of the interior - the exterior is what really is a visual blight on New York City's canvas - see the exterior here.
Now, take a look at these photos of the previous magnificent Beaux Arts structure by McKim, Mead & White which was torn down in 1964 to make way for the new building complex. Be forewarned you will find the experience upsetting and will ask why - look here if you dare.
Now you see why New York Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff calls it the greatest crime in architectural history. In an article in the Times, New York City, Tear Down These Walls, Ouroussoff says:
"No site in New York has a darker past than this one. The demolition of the old Pennsylvania Station, the monumental McKim, Mead & White Beaux-Arts gem that stood on this site until 1964, remains one of the greatest crimes in American architectural history. What replaced it is one of the city’s most dehumanizing spaces: a warren of cramped corridors and waiting areas buried under the monstrous drum of the Garden."
Ouroussoff's statements are hardly an exaggeration. In a city like this, it is rather shocking to have a major nexus used by millions to be so underwhelming, particularly since it is many visitor's first impression of the city. I imagine the utilitarian function of a train station and immediate impact provided by the city around it suffice to distract visitors from the appearance of the Penn Station / Madison Square Garden Complex. Some may feel that it is no worse than many train stations worldwide which are unattractive and located in some of the least desirable locations. But this is a world class destination city. We have standards and options.
Plans have been made for rebuilding. From the New York Times article:
"Over the years the city has entertained dozens of proposals to improve the station, but none have amounted to much of anything. A decade ago Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan unveiled a multibillion-dollar plan to relocate the entrance at the grand old Farley Post Office Building, a McKim, Mead & White treasure on Eighth Avenue which would free up more space underground. But the plan became entangled in New York’s byzantine development politics and fizzled."
I certainly share sentiments with Ouroussoff to have this place torn down. If you visit the area, I suggest you do like I do and avert your eyes from what is worthless, lest you damage your eyes or stain your soul ...


Jarart said...

That was disturbing.....why indeed!

Ree said...

I can't imagine why it would be torn down - so sad.

kawa said...

well...I only heard of the fuss about the situation, but didn't really know the acctual reason of the protests. Surely that would be the most beautiful train staion all over world! So sad it didn't survive..

Linda in Lancaster said...

Perhaps somebody's brother-in-law was the contractor on the project? We all know how politics pad wallets. . . You can see this in any city and it's a shame.

The true artisans and craftsmen are long gone. People are more interested in how long they are going to be inconvenienced by construction and how much it's going to cost!

At the very least pictures remain of true beauty........

UrbanRevolutionary said...

that's freaking heartbreaking.
crazy, crazy..

Rubicon said...

one thing i like about the penn station: they play classical music - kinda relaxing when you are travelling