"The Great Hall of Chicago Union Station," photographed by Velvet, cropped to show columns, source: Wikimedia Commons
The columns are one of the first things I notice every time I walk into the Great Hall at Chicago Union Station. The decoration around the tops, known as a capital, marks these as Corinthian columns. The leaves on the capitals are modeled on the acanthus plant, which mostly grows around the Mediterranean Sea. The vertical grooves cut into the sides, known as fluting, makes them, and the whole room, look taller.
"Acanthus at Pompeii," photographed by me
If you face the rest of the station and look up, you’ll see two statues over the archway, one on either side. At first glance the one on the left looks like Athena, mostly because of her owl. This leaves the other statue a mystery. According to the station’s website, “one represent[s] day (holding a rooster) and the other represent[s] night (holding an owl), a recognition of the 24-hour nature of passenger railroading.” A nice idea, but the whole thing still reminds me of the School of Athens.
"Night and Day Statues, Union Station Chicago," photographed by Steve Wilson, Source: Wikimedia Commons
All of these things call to mind a vague connection to Greek and Roman history, what we think of as the great and glorious ancestor to our own civilization. The fact that the walls, ceiling, and columns are a pale golden color only helps bring to mind colors of their ruins. Combined with the similarity to the School of Athens the space says two things to me. First and more overtly, “We as a society are like them in learning and wisdom.” More subtly, “We who designed this are educated men. You should feel superior for getting the reference as we do for making it.”
Raphael's "School of Athens," painted in 1505
Translation of the above: where I post the interesting things I find researching the Classical and Medieval periods in my free time.