Connection Catalyst

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  • Connection Catalyst: Creating a Community Hub
  • September 2020
  • RIBA: Re-Imagining Railway Stations Competition – Entrant
  • Team: VIA Architecture

Rail stations are regional links connecting people and goods across the country. They also have the potential to become multi-modal hubs which serves as interchanges for mobility connections as well as community hubs which fosters social connections through catalyzing the development of housing, shopping, food, basic human services, and information exchange. Our proposal is a modular system of infrastructure that can be deployed over time, to allow stations to be flexible and to grow incrementally, in a manner that accommodates both ridership changes and responds to the aspirations of the surrounding community.

The National Rail system stations are categorized by size: A-F. This is measured via annual ridership and staff presence. Small to medium stations, categories D, E, and F, comprise the majority of the system at 87%, and are the focus of this design brief response.

These stations have four typical relationships of rail line and platform to the surrounding street network: separate, below, above, and adjacent. Most commonly, the platform and the rail line do not have a strong street presence, or are only connected by to the street by a stairwell. As a result, stations are not well integrated into surrounding urban context, are difficult to find, and are not always accessible. In analysing the customer facing amenities of a representative sample of these small to medium stations, larger stations consistently have more passenger amenities which is logical given ridership and surrounding community development. However, what is missing from many stations is full wheelchair accessibility to all platforms and public station functions and interaction with the surrounding community. Our proposal includes a layer of programming that can transform these small to medium scale stations, from basic rail stations, to intermodal hubs, and then to community hubs that engage the context, users, and heritage.