The canopies of our proposed station are planned, shaped, and structured to acknowledge the directionality of the buses and the relatively fixed loading locations of the front and center doors of both standard and articulated buses. In center-island stations, the doubling of the canopies, with each facing in opposite directions, results in a dynamic overall form that gives expression and dignity to the Boston area’s newest comprehensive mobility network. Like Hector Guimard’s Metro stations in Paris, their distinctive form will become the brand of the network.
Ingrid Bengtson (lead designer)
Tim Love (team leader)
Rather than run columns down the centerline of the platform, our proposal places them on a diagonal. This provides additional area at the front of the bus, where it is the most warranted. These columns support a single beam that serves as the spring point of a curved canopy that loops up and then down to protect passengers on the platform from the elements. The cantilever is assisted by a series of steel brackets that connect the top of the columns to the canopy a few feet above the edge. While the brackets will be mostly in compression, they have been designed to look like they are keeping the canopy from flying away. A pin-joint connection from strut to column allows for a single detail to accommodate each strut angle. The steel elements are painted black, in reference to both the wrought iron and steel elements of the historical and contemporary MBTA stations in the Back Bay. Our proposal was also inspired by Viollet-le-Duc’s speculative structural proposals of the 1880s that explored the expressive possibilities of spans that combined cast iron brackets and masonry vaults. The roof itself is made of a concrete-carbon composite that will be fabricated in sections off-site. The lateral seams will be disguised by a double joint that will pick up the cadence of the brackets.
Canopies and Public Art
The roof shape was inspired by the voluminous and strongly figurative roofs of H.H. Richardson’s suburban train stations and sheds. Like his structures, our proposal has been designed to seem at once both sculptural and weightless. While the upper surface of the roof will be a warm medium grey, the natural color of the concrete material, the underside will be brightly colored in patterns or murals that will be customized for each neighborhood. These ceiling murals will be more recessive during the day, when the hustle and bustle of the surrounding city will dominate, but they will become welcoming beacons at night because of uplighting attached to the beams.
We propose that an artist be selected for each station. They could be a local artist from the neighborhood, or a visiting artist commissioned to create a work specific to the site. In either case, the local physical and cultural context should be an inspiration for the ceiling mural. To insure high quality results, a local arts non-profit and a curator from one of Boston’s major arts institutions (MFA, ICA, etc.) should be members of the selection committee.
The crosswalks leading to the stations can become an extension of the art featured on the underside of the canopy. This will increase visibility and safety for pedestrians in the crosswalk, and will create a physical connection between the station and the neighborhood, inviting people in.
The cranked angle of the roof also allows for rainwater scuppers on either end of the stations. They can be shaped and angled to minimize the dimension of the water column and spray. During rain events, passengers will be greeted by thin elegant waterfalls at the entrance to the stations. The water drops into carefully shaped splash basins that will minimize over splash and irrigate the rain garden that surrounds them.
The station has been designed to serve operational and rider comfort needs, while elevating the experience of taking the bus. The asymmetrical station provides extra space closer to the doors, in order to facilitate boarding and alighting. The station design accommodates a full enclosure with turnstile entry for off-board fare collection, as well as a more scaled-back version with only a partial windscreen for stations with lower ridership and shorter bus dwell time. Bus arrival screens, wayfinding, heating elements, and ticketing kiosks are seamlessly integrated into the station design. Bicycle parking is provided for both center median- and curb-aligned stations; right-side stations also include Hubway stations for easy transfers, opening up a broader network of mobility options.
Enhancement of Public Life
While the canopies are distinctively figurative, they also work as a kit of parts. When used in more conventional sidewalk applications, the double canopy can accommodate additional program to serve both bus riders and the larger neighborhood. The sidewalk-facing canopy provides space for a kiosk, such as a coffee shop, a fruit seller, or a newsstand, providing an amenity for the neighborhood and a high-traffic retail location for a local business. The remaining area can be used for moveable chairs that double as an outdoor café and a pleasant place to wait.