During a couple of days in New York two weeks ago I went through Grand Central Station and noticed the inscription in the picture below.
Grand Central Station truely is grand and unique to New York, but the inscription is illuminative for any city. For starters, it refers to the facility not as a “station” or even a “building,” but as a “monument.” The word seems to imply a recognition on the part of everyone involved that they were going above and beyond. This wasn’t some dinky and disposable structure. They weren’t doing the bare minimum and they didn’t scrimp. It was a monument right from the get go, and the builders — and the city — were proud of that fact.
The inscription also mentions that people built the station with “head heart and hand.” People still think about buildings and physically erect them, but looking around I’m hard pressed to find any buildings erected during my lifetime that show much heart.
Every building can’t be Grand Central Station and the circumstances that created (and preserved) this architectural marvel were unique.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t still erect “monuments” that require more than the typical commitment of money and manpower. Every building doesn’t have to be disposable within a generation.
Grand Central, and other structures from various time periods, suggest that we can create something worth keeping. We could still be creating an architectural legacy for generations to come. Indeed, I believe that if Provo is successful, it’s best historic buildings haven’t even been conceived of yet.