Unlike the new Moynihan Train Hall at Penn Station, itself like a grimly leveraged-bought-out doppelgänger of Grand Central, the Madison LIRR station actually does engage at the human scale—to an almost uncanny degree. (Anyone who honestly prefers the mall-like, benchless Moynihan Hall to either Penn Station or even the Port Authority has clearly never had to spend all that much time in any of them. It may be true that one scuttles into Penn Station like a rat; but a rat can live a life of great voluptuousness in New York).

Grand Central Madison oddly resembles—in its finishes, proportions, general emptiness, and weird corners and drop ceilings—a second-floor dentist’s office in a midsize, peri-urban commercial development (you know the type); the only outliers are the enormous columns that periodically transfix the space, their disproportionate wideness heightened by the low ceilings (themselves recalling the old Penn Station mall), which remind us just how much stuff we are buried under. The whole ensemble evokes the Zoomer creepypasta of the Backrooms, a collective postrationalization of barely-held childhood memories of institutional waiting rooms, and prefigures a kind of post-postindustrial ruin-aesthetic, not yet articulated but established here from Day One.

The main entrance to Grand Central Madison

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