Friday, October 1, 2010

I.M. Pei's Hyperboloid vs. Grand Central Terminal

Take I.M. Pei's plans with a mix of relief and regret.

So imagine a fictitious, 'alternate history', 'parallel universe' version of New York City. Here a hyperboloid skyscraper, a narrow, vase-shaped tower, stands proudly over the Midtown skyline. It stands haughty, unique, and unforgettable—and right on top of what used to be Grand Central Terminal.

The video is beautifully done and it certainly does more justice to the building than any of the renderings I've seen of it. (And I do like the creative touches the director added like the kitschy, Mad Men interiors from 1:36 to 1:49.) Perhaps Robert Moses would have approved the plan had he seen this video instead of the rendering below. And had he approve it, then this would have become the most hated building in NYC—not for it's looks perhaps, but moreso for the obliteration of Grand Central.

The plans for I.M. Pei's Hyperboloid date to 1956, which by my account predates Charles Luckman's plans for replacing Penn Station with (the latest incarnation of) Madison Square Garden. It's strange to imagine an alternate history where the public outcry over the demolition of Grand Central Terminal would lead to the survival of Penn Station.

So imagine still, as the sun rises on this different but familiar New York. A long shadow of the Hyperboloid is cast westwards, towards granite eagles of the now one-hundred year old Pennsylvania Station. It seems to me that either Grand Central or Penn Station had to be martyred—for the cause of landmarks preservation—so that the other might live.

Still, the Hyperboloid would have been a nice building to have...but just off of any priceless, well-maintained and irreplaceable landmarks thank you very much. An ongoing discussion about the building can be found on this forum.

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