Montreal's Gare centrale is a huge accomplishment in modern planning and design, but its planners and architects did everything in their power to ensure that it would not make a splash in the Montreal architectural landscape. In sum, Gare Centrale was always meant to be hidden out of sight. The station was always meant to be surrounded by CN's sprawling campus of office towers and exhibition halls and hotels. And today, this is precisely what it is.
The front of the station as it looked upon its completion in 1943. You can't see this nowadays, as the front of the station is completely hidden from view by CN's other buildings The Queen Elizabeth hotel and Tour Centrale.
The station had a bold design, remember this building started construction in 1926 (the great depression and the war ensured that it would only be completed in 1943).
The station remains the only one in North america with rail access from an underground tunnel on one side and a viaduct on the other. It was also the first to have access ramps for automobiles and trucks built in the initial design. Also worthy of noting, the station itself is completely underground.
The station is a mix of international and art deco styles. The inside is laced with art deco bas-relief showing stereotypical canadian activities as the national anthem is inscribed in both official languages.
Despite its continuing use, the station's bold aesthetics never won the affection of the city, even less than that, it barely even registers to anybody. When people here think of central station they think of a large room in the underground city, and not the art deco / international architectural hybrid and engineering wonder that it really is. This may have to do with the fact that the station's main exterior entrance (and the one most people see when entering the station) is through a cold elevated parking garage adjacent to the actual building:
This historic photo from the early 60's shows Central station and the partly completed complex that surrounds it (Place Bonaventure which nows covers the south tracks and the 30 storey Tour central were not built yet)