a sense of presence

“A railway station, especially a large one, is something like a home: it acquires a certain aura after it has been used. I do not believe in ghosts or haunted mansions but I am always conscious when I enter any old building of the unseen presence of those who came before. It does not matter if the furniture and bric-a-brac have been stripped away; a sense of presence remains—a feeling, an echo perhaps, that tells you lives were lived here, tragedies enacted, triumphs rewarded, loves consummated, and that this building knew the cycle of birth, life, and death, of hope and despair, of sadness and joy. You cannot experience any of this when you enter a brand new structure. Freshly completed edifices lack a soul. It is the older ones, the ones who have served their purpose over the years, that rejoice in this kind of psychic patina. The sense of history, the feeling of nostalgia, the echoes of the past can never bey worked into an architect’s blueprint.”  (From ‘A Feeling, An Echo’—an essay on the *near demise of Union Station, by Pierre Berton)

*Because of a period of underutilization and a prevailing fashion for all things modern—a la the CN Tower at the time—there was serious talk during the early 70’s of  demolishing Toronto’s Union Station. It really is quite stunning how stupid we humans can be. Fortunately, there are a handful that occasionally get it right. And in this case at least, sanity prevailed.


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