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Past the platform: enabling the value of stations beyond the concourse
30 July 2021
Catalysts for urban growth, public transport networks around the world are integral pieces of our cities, facilitating accessible, connected and safe journeys. However, the expansion and regeneration of these networks, by bodies such as Transport for London (TfL), Grand Paris Express (GPE), and New York’s Metropolitan Transport Agency (MTA), has identified far-reaching value that transcends simply station – and travel – design.
Identify the challenges
Quantifying and enabling this value is complex, and while guided by city-wide programmes such as London’s Good Growth by Design plan and New York’s OneNYC, there are specific issues in station design that need to be addressed. How can we reconcile the scale of transport hubs with existing street patterns? How can stations support local economies, provide active streets, and deliver the green, secure, people-oriented experiences that are so needed?
Scaling the vision
These challenges demand a vision for station design that, to enable genuine social and economic benefit, must be scalable — from the wider city implications to communities and people.
At a city level the benefits are tangible: infrastructure development creates new city quarters, housing and commercial development. But in developing Southern Cross station in Melbourne, Australia, Grimshaw’s design realised an opportunity in the station’s often overlooked ‘fifth elevation’. While the station links two precincts of Melbourne – at street level and across upper-level routes linking two large oversite developments – the station’s undulating roof form brings an unexpected city ‘landscape’ to the surrounding commercial buildings, as well as providing shade and a naturally ventilated environmental envelope.
At a community level, London Bridge Station in London in the UK – a transport hub that once severed its local area – now for the first time links neighbourhoods to the north and south of the station, through a connecting public concourse. And the refurbished Victorian viaduct arches, alive with retail and F&B, invigorate pedestrian routes and link the station to the vibrant and historic Bermondsey Street; railway heritage playing a vital part in placemaking and supporting local businesses.
Tackling travel as well as wider social needs was at the heart of the development of Bijlmer ArenA station south-east of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. A once no-go area, experiencing high levels of crime in disconnected neighbourhoods, Grimshaw’s vision in placing people at the heart of the development lifted the station’s physical presence to create human-scale spaces below the expanded eight-track rail line. What was once a dark, unsafe environment is now a vibrant, connected, well-lit public space, ‘owned’ by the local people.
Designing in value
So, while the challenges to transcend travel and create real value beyond the station concourse are far-reaching and manifold, adopting an approach that engenders social and economic coherence is possible. Getting people from A to B can reach further afield than the sense of travel to the sense of place, which will deliver civic spaces beyond the station concourse.
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