People walk by it every day, a great leviathan sprawled upon the tarnished earth. It’s a smudge. It’s a wound. Or perhaps it’s dying, waiting for the final blow, begging as it lay pondering inevitability. Do those watching confirm the weary suspicion of termination? Some may differ to that belief, but what of the optimistic? The inverse is not preposterous, but superfluous?
This melancholy description serves the decaying Michigan Central Station in Detroit. A feat of neoclassical architecture, it was built much like New York’s Grand Central Station: immodest and with the luxury of the East. Its 18 stories stands 230-feet high; every corner a testament to the ludicrous detailing set in concrete by an audacious man with an idea. The structure — the sharp angles with meaningful boundaries, the concrete seemingly chiseled into form — emphasizes the belief that it was built to last.
But now, only the structure lasts.
In 1988, Michigan Central Station was shut down after being sold for a transportation project that fell through, and little has happened since.
Still, they don’t know what to do with it. For all its life, the upper stories of the station were practically never used; often times, they were left abandoned and untouched in the shadow of the business beneath. It was as if the benefactor gave a gift its receiver could not use — like giving a computer to a caveman. And with that misunderstanding of the opportunity at hand, the residents of Detroit went about muddling the behemoth with bland perceptions of proper form.
What could’ve been a monument to Detroit became a train station and only that. What could’ve been a casino or a hotel or a restaurant became the shell of former optimism, barren and unwanted. And now barbed wire encompasses it, hinting at failure.
It’s the way of the Midwest. Cut out the inefficiencies — make it quick and make it snappy. Lackluster motions in dull and modestly heated rooms are all we think is necessary. Let’s not indulge. Let’s not enjoy. Let’s be mundane. Let’s get it done. Let’s work monotonously.
Work is a means to an end — dues paid to make happiness attainable. As we all endeavor to revel, so now must Detroit. If reconstructed with features of recreation, Michigan Central Station could become this end, the reason for which this Detroit works, living in dichotomy: working, playing. Detroit needs a bastion of relief in this conundrum of reconstruction. Take this — this luxury — and enjoy something, anything. For if not, what are people to do as they become but ants, running to and fro with the job at hand? Ants: beckoning tasks for simple occupation. They live. They work. They die.
But Detroit’s not as simple as that.
John Koster is an Engineering freshman.