Quote of the Day: Michael Kimmelman on the Value of Architecture

Penn StationNew York Historical Society/Public Domain

I often use Pennsylvania Station as an example of what we can learn from old buildings; it was a wonderful example of how one could use natural light. Not only is that glorious roof made of glass, but the floors were too, lighting the platforms below without the use of electricity, by installing prism glass in the floors. It was a marvelous building; its destruction was the definitive tragedy that started the preservation movement in the United States.

Michael Kimmelman, the new architecture correspondent for the New York Times, writes about the importance of architecture:

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.

What is the value of architecture? It can be measured, culturally, humanely and historically, in the gulf between these two places.

Penn Station Lower LevelMcKim, Mead and White. Look at those glass floors over the platform./Public Domain

Steve Mouzon has written in the Original Green that for a building to be sustainable, it must be Durable, Flexible, Frugal, but possibly most importantly, Lovable, because "if they can't be loved, they will not last."

The original Penn Station was lovable. Kimmelman writes:

“One entered the city like a god; one scuttles in now like a rat,” is the familiar lament from Vincent J. Scully Jr., the Yale architectural historian, about the difference between the former and present Penn Stations.

Lower Level Penn StationMcKim, Mead and White. Another view from below/Public Domain

It is time we learned from buildings like the old Penn Station, and built like them again. If we want people to get back on trains, it should at least be a pleasant, uplifting journey.

Thanks to Swiss Miss for the find.

Quote of the Day: Michael Kimmelman on the Value of Architecture
The New York TImes Critic Looks at Penn Station and Calls it Every Name In the Book.

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