A train station-cum-ballroom sends Charlie Luxton into a transport of delight, but a British airport is a pain in the neck
My wonder is Grand Central Station in New York, mainly because of its interiors and because it has such grandeur – as the name suggests. But also because it’s a building that celebrates travel and makes it exciting. It’s inspirational in the way it’s laid out. You can see it’s been a precursor for most modern airports, in the way you arrive at one level and depart at another. Beyond that it’s quite a complicated building, so there are interesting corners to discover – the Oyster Bar, with its amazing 1930s steam chowder cookers, is just fantastic. It’s the opposite of a McDonald’s-ised, corporatised experience. It feels unique. It makes you feel like you’re in a movie and that what you’re doing is really special, which for me is wonderful, great architecture.
The blunder is Heathrow. It’s a bit unfair because Heathrow evolved with no great vision, but it is the antithesis of Grand Central Station and it is dire. It’s the biggest transit hub in Europe and one of the biggest in the world, yet it has a meanness of space, a lack of headroom … you feel claustrophobic in the check-in halls, and the whole thing is corporatised, yet that’s the impression it gives people passing through. In terms of a nation building an image of itself, it’s so disappointing.
Architect and broadcaster Charlie Luxton presents Guerrilla Homes on BBC Three for four consecutive nights, starting on Monday 6 September