Today marked the (very) long awaited public opening of “Grand Central Madison” to the world. Construction to bring the Long Island Railroad to the east side of Manhattan first started in the late ’60s, but was eventually cancelled due to lack of funds. It wasn’t until the ’90s that the plan was revived, with the intention of bringing trains into Grand Central Terminal. The wait may have been long, but it is nice to get a chance to see the beloved Terminal, in essence, reinvent itself yet again. Things may be changing, but at their core they really do stay the same—almost 110 years after opening, Grand Central remains dedicated to the purpose for which it was built, arguably even more of an important train station than before.

The new concourse is quite beautiful, and I was rather impressed with the subtle usage of art, color and light as visual cues for wayfinding. If you tuned in to my presentation in November about Sweden’s Tunnelbana, you’ll recall that one of the arguments for including art in transit is that it can be a functional mechanism for wayfinding and visual orientation. Grand Central Madison makes use of the technique with individual mosaics at each cross street. Corresponding wall tiles also change color depending where you’re located, along with colored LEDs lighting the platforms to further indicate direction. Teal shines the way for 48th Street, purple to 47th, blue to 46th, and green to 45th.

I’ll let the photos speak for themselves… enjoy the visual vibes from the new Grand Central…

3 Responses

  1. Lee says:

    Looks like something right out of Star Trek. Can’t wait to visit it.

    Hope it’s successful and can reduce congestion at Pennsylvania Station. Penn Station is simply overcrowded–too many trains and passengers for it to handle. Maybe freeing up some LIRR slots (on the middle tracks) might help NJ Transit and Amtrak run more reliably.

  2. Lee says:

    At first glance, Grand Central Madison is very attractive. But compared to the existing Grand Central Terminal, does it seem a bit sterile, maybe too streamlined?

    I am no artist and it’s hard for me to describe, but to me it seems the color scheme of new MTA railroad and subway stations seems to be mostly bright white, gray, and pale blue. Very little red and yellow (the yellow safety stripe stands out) or deeper colors. Very pure white lighting. Example:
    https://www.nycsubway.org/perl/show?160415
    Here is a picture of the new Second Avenue Subway 72nd Street.
    https://www.nycsubway.org/perl/show?147006

    Compare the visual effect to existing railroad and stations. Sure, they’re often much more cluttered, even dirty at times. But look at Grand Central’s main hall–the buff colored walls with different textures. It’s alive, not as sterile.
    https://www.nycsubway.org/perl/show?135506

    Here’s a picture of the Times Square-42nd Street IRT station. Note the green pillars with black signage, and side walls with white, dark pillars, yellow top edge, and red lower edge. Yes, it’s cluttered, but it seems to have some texture.
    https://www.nycsubway.org/perl/show?136860

    As an aside, some years ago the MTA published an interesting book, “Subway Style: 100 Years of Architecture & Design in the New York City Subway”.

    • Emily says:

      Although I think that one can call things sterile, I see a modern push in transit architecture where bright light is incorporated to give the illusion that you are not actually deep underground. It certainly isn’t for everyone, but I’m not going to say I’m not against this. Remember, Grand Central was designed when electric lighting was a rarity, and highlighted bare bulbs as a type of status symbol. Visual aesthetics change over time, and that’s okay.

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