NY1 begins its week-long celebration of Grand Central Terminal's centennial with a look at its iconic architecture and style, and how it plays a role in the way New Yorkers and out-of-town visitors use the building. NY1's Real Estate reporter Jill Urban filed the following report.
Grand Central Terminal is a true New York City icon. Like the trains that travel to it, Grand Central Terminal's great halls and majestic corridors transport us to another place and time.
Yet the building's Beaux Arts style of architecture, which was designed 100 years ago, is all about the people who walk through it.
"Beaux Arts design is based first and foremost on the importance of the individual," says urban historian Justin Ferate. "Every architectural detail in the space has some physical relationship to your body and that's very import because it helps you figure out where you are."
The architecture of the building is as much about psychology as it is about style. Every single corridor is designed to create a sense of consciousness and comfort.
"If you look around the Grand Concourse, you’ll find that the railings are roughly your waist height. The counters are just the right height to be leaned on," Ferate says. "Each block of stone in the upstairs concourse is one footstep wide for walking and one footstep long for running. And because the blocks relate to your physical movement, you use it subliminally as you run across the platform."
Ferate offers tours of Grand Central and helps explain the meaning behind its design. Aside from the individual, he says Beaux Arts style often reflects elements of transportation and movement. That is seen is almost every aspect of the building, from beams in the ceiling that represent repetitive motion to catwalks in the windows that once served as corridors for commuters.
Nowadays, despite seeing hundreds of thousands of visitors each day, Grand Central Terminal never seems overcrowded, and it's specifically designed that way. Strategically placed ramps, for example, slow or speed up your pace as you come and go from the tracks. All aspects of the building are designed to function perfectly.
"The trains still come in and out as planned, the people go in and out as planned and it works. And it works in a way that very few structures of its kind ever work," Ferate says.