Austin-Smith: Lord was one of six architectural practices chosen from over 43 international entrants to participate in a limited invitation design competition for the new £15m Stoke bus station. Other shortlisted practices included Wilkinson Eyre, John McAslan + Partners, Grimshaw, BDP and Zaha Hadid.
Following the formal submission the team were delighted to see that the practice had topped both the Council’s own public vote and The Architects’ Journal’s peer vote when the schemes were anonymously placed on websites for a vote on the preferred solution.
“It was good to get the recognition of the public and our peers, however we do take this kind of thing in the spirit in which it was intended. It was a welcome diversion to come in and see how we were doing whilst we waited for the interview and it gave us a lift knowing we were obviously doing something right,” explains Transport and Infrastructure Cornerstone, Richard Cronin.
Unfortunately the practice was unsuccessful in the final selection with Grimshaw Architects being appointed by the Council and the Developer for the adjacent East West Centre who are partially funding the scheme.
An upbeat Richard Cronin had this to say, “It was a pleasure to take part in such a challenging and interesting exercise and to see how the other teams approached the problems posed by the site both in terms of its operational layout and its historical mining use. We knew that looking at a drive-through solution was a riskier option but genuinely felt it was the right solution for that site, utilising the ring road, and ensuring separation of the passengers from the buses was key to our approach. We pride ourselves on our ability to take another look at the problem to try and see if there is a better way of doing it. That’s what we as Austin-Smith:Lord bring to clients in the sector, it’s about a full understanding of the operational issues and an ability to analyse the patterns of use to deliver the safest and best architecture at the right price.”
The Austin-Smith:Lord team consisted of JMP Transport Engineers, Curtins Structural Engineers, Hilson Moran, Gleeds and RLB. Following the 40 day period to prepare detailed submissions, which included proposed layouts and external designs, residents were consulted about the designs and their views formed part of the selection process with the final decision being made by a panel of judges.
Selection criteria included a number of factors including each design’s philosophy in relation to the context of the site, delivery within budgetary constraints, response to the management of pedestrian flow and potential pedestrian/vehicle conflict and maximizing the capacity of the site.
Austin-Smith:Lord were the only team to suggest an alternative to the Drive In-Reverse Out layouts specified within the brief by proposing an innovative drive-through solution which was felt would provide a significantly lower accident risk, given the nature of the site. Building on the successful layout at Wolverhampton Interchange, which was designed by Austin-Smith:Lord in 2009, the team developed a strategy for a 14-bay drive-through facility which met and exceeded the operational capacity requirements of the brief, together with an additional strategy to expand by a further 30% capacity in future, if required.
The project location was entirely appropriate for designing a ‘stand-out’ building and the City’s history of pottery and chinaware (with manufacturers such as Spode and Wedgewood) was echoed in the design of a flowing carapace of lightweight ferroconcrete to suggest the qualities and delicacy of fine bone china, whilst providing a shelter from rain and snow to the pedestrian concourse. Natural ventilation, rainwater harvesting and air-source heat pumps were incorporated into the design to meet sustainability requirements.
Although function and safety were critical, the regenerative effects that the new bus station could bring were immediately clear. An orientation was developed to place the main entrance to the bus station on the link between the civic buildings and the proposed precinct to the east. An advantage of the revised bus routing was that this link could be kept truly pedestrian, free of all traffic, with the exception of the occasional service vehicle. This also enabled a free flow of pedestrians from the bus station into the proposed market square to the north, which in turn, connects to the city centre.
A robust cost plan, developed closely with Gleeds, incorporating tender returns from another similar local scheme, ensured the £15m budget was not exceeded.
The new, 7,300m2 public transport interchange will act as a catalyst for future regeneration which will unlock delivery of the new £250m East West precinct development by Realis Estates. Construction is planned to start on site in 2011 with completion in 2012.