A Beau-Arts Masterpiece for the 21st Century

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August 29, 2012

A Beau-Arts Masterpiece for the 21st Century

Union Station, Washington, DC

When Union Station was designed by Daniel Burnham in 1907, the country was experiencing unprecedented growth in train travel. The elegant Beaux-Arts station quickly gained status as one of the busiest, most important rail stations in the world.

After its busiest years during World War II, Union Station fell victim to the passage of time and the rise of car and air travel. The station lost its luster, succumbing to decay, the structural and cosmetic problems led to its closing in 1981.

A public/private partnership was formed to restore the station and redevelop it to incorporate retail. The station reopened in 1988, the glittering paen to rail travel was back and ready to serve new generations of travelers and shoppers.

As we enter the next century of rail travel, Union Station is again preparing to heighten its status as one of the premier transportation centers in the nation.

If you’ve been reading the blog for a while, you know that I am a transportation geek, a modernist, architecture enthusiast, and a historic preservationist. I’m also a food and wine maniac, but I can’t find a really clever way of working that into this post, I’ll just say that my love for good wines and great company helps keep my zeal for preservation in check.

Rail hub, proposed view from H Street

I am excited about these ambitious plans by Amtrak to renovate Union Station. I desperately want high speed rail and support smart energy use and sustainability. The Union Station Master Plan – yes, I read it – states that the original 1907 structure will remain intact and will receive a number of upgrades.

I hope this all comes together in a smart, sensitive way, preserving our beautiful architectural history, while serving the needs of modern society. Preservation as a rigid, static model, especially when it comes to grand public structures does not serve any present or future purpose. This ambitious project can serve as a positive model for respecting our past, fulfilling the needs of our present, and building a strong, sustainable bridge to our future.

For more:

Inhabitat: Amtrak announces ambitious eco-plans

Union Station Master Plan

 

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