Friday Musings: Chicago’s Union Station

September 20, 2013 at 2:04 pm

Just a random thought on Friday afternoon: I wish Union Station were more lively and inviting (as I’ve said before). After descending into the station, it feels like a maze of claustrophobic tunnels (even outside rush hour).

Near the concourse areas of Union Station. Image: Michael Kappel via Flickr.

There is the beautiful but sadly underused Great Hall.

Great Hall. Image: Vincent Desjardins via Flickr.

And the entrance that I see many people using to get to Adams St (and the Loop) is just a little sad, like Penn Station in New York.

Looking out from the top of the escalators at Union Station. Image: Shaun Jacobsen.

Adams St Entrance. Image: Shaun Jacobsen.

The platforms aren’t any better, polluted with water dripping down and unsightly columns.

Image: Shawn Calvert via Flickr.

Below is what was Union Station, sadly now a skyscraper (that I work in) was built above it in 1971.

Chicago Union Station, 1925. Image: Burnham Plan Chicago.

Ogilvie Station, just a few blocks north, feels slightly more inviting and well-lit (since it is above-ground), but is still relatively small.

Ogilvie station concourse just before the tracks. Image: Clarkmaxwell via Flickr.

Even Washington, D.C.’s Union Station (which I’ve never been to) looks more open and inviting.

Image: The-tml via Flickr.

And of course, I have a little nostalgia for Paris Gare du Nord.

Concourse of Gare du Nord. Image: jpellgen via Flickr.

Image: Hugh Llewelyn.

I love these flip-down departure boards. Image: Cisko via Flickr.

And the way Frankfurt am Main’s train station opens to a large public space.

Frankfurt am Main Hauptbahnhof. Image: Alibash via Flickr.

Or Paris St-Lazare’s smaller plaza, which still leads into a Metro/RER station below ground.

Paris St-Lazare station and Metro entrance. Image: Brujita via Flickr.

There are some small plans to help traffic circulation around Union Station, but nothing that really stirs our blood and creates a great welcoming place to the city. Nor does it connect to local public transportation. What are some of the greatest train stations you’ve seen, and how do you think Union Station could look and feel better in its current location?