18 April 2012

Union Station, at a Glance

I admit that I have a somewhat childish fascination with trains. I never built models of them as a kid, preferring WWII airplanes. And though I did have a train set that my dad mounted on an accurately painted large piece of plywood (lakes and greenery and a bridge!), I don't particularly have any wistful memories of playing with the trains. So I came rather late to my appreciation of things locomotive.

Trains and train stations are part and parcel, and though many of the latter can be quite grim and grubby, others are exceptional design expressions of architects and their times. Whether grand or quaint, many train stations are prime territory for photographers.

One of the things I like about shooting established architecture is that I explore the structure with my cameras and then often I'll explore again via my computer and Wikipedia, or other reference sites.

Case in point: I was in Los Angeles on a photo trip this past February and spent an hour photographing the Union Station. Completed in 1939, it is a blend of three architectural styles (according to Wikipedia): Dutch Colonial Revival, Mission Revival, and Streamline Moderne. Of course I looked these styles up and Mission Revival seems the obvious parent with perhaps a touch of the Moderne.

Regardless of its pedigree, it is a compelling structure with many interesting features. This starts with its distinctive tower and art-deco inspired building entrance. Once in the building you are confronted with a long foyer and to the left the old blocked-off-to-the-public Main Ticketing Concourse. This is now used for scheduled photo sessions like the couple shoot I saw taking place. I would have loved to wander in this spacious room but contented myself with a few wide-angle shots.

The main waiting room is ahead and though it is now occupied by the ball cap crowd, you can almost imagine the fedoras and suits of the '40's and '50's. At the end of the the train access passageway is a large room with a huge crystal-like skylight overhead (really, the word skylight does not do it justice) . This appeared to be a connector to a bus station and despite the fact that bus stations are generally in a different (and lower) league than train stations, this room had fascinating touches and wonderful light.  

Too quick, my walking tour was over. The sunset was approaching and Frank Gehry's Concert Hall was just a few blocks away. Its shimmering mirror-like panels beckoned.


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