In 2012, Union Station became the new central location for intercity bus travel in Washington DC. The new bus transit center is located in the parking garage, removed from the facilities and amenities of the majestic Beaux Arts masterpiece next door. Studio Twenty Seven Architecture was asked to design a solution that would provide amenities to the bus traveler without requiring them to leave the bus deck.
Using the metaphor of a Zen garden, the new bus transit center comprises three pavilions.
The first pavilion serves as "rocks" in the field. This is formed from two ovoid shapes, merged together, created from booleaned ellipsoid monocoque geometry. This method provided for cost effective cast fiberglass fabrication and assembly by a North Carolina based ship builder. This pavilion contains ticketing and shopping kiosks, two programs that easily fit into non-orthogonal forms.
The second pavilion is the rock garden's "pochi," or meditation porch, overlooking the neighboring arrangement. This pavilion serves as a waiting space, with a wood and glass enclosure for hot and cold days and a bamboo-encircled open air deck is for mild days.
The last pavilion contains restrooms. Due to the trains running below, this pavilion had to be set off at a distance to accommodate the practical plumbing need. Because of this, and the pavilion’s purely utilitarian function, it was decided that this should speak of what it truly is. A series of recycled shipping containers serve as the armature for this discreet comfort station.
Pavilion one inset panels are Morse code for popular Death Cab for Cuties lyrics from Soul Meets Body: ‘Cause in my head there’s a greyhound station Where I send my thoughts to far off destinations So they may have a chance of finding a place where they’re far more suited than here
These lyrics were translated and rounded into MDF panels and then fabricated from color coated vacuum sealed fiberglass.
Since 1908, Union Station has been an architectural icon and the central hub for railroad transport in the District of Columbia. Two years ago, the Union Station Redevelopment Corporation invited the nation’s five inter-city bus carriers to make Union Station their single point of embarkment in Washington. Locating the bus carriers within the Union Station garage complex would allow passengers easy connection to Metrorail, Metro Bus, Trains and sightseeing shuttles.
The goal of this project was to provide shelter, amenities and way-finding for bus passengers at this new centralized location. Because the work would take place within the confines of an existing parking garage that operated twenty four hours a day, the scheduling opportunities and construction staging space were both very limited. With these constraints and an overall budget of just more than a million dollars, the program seemed to dictate the use of pre-fabricated pavilions as a design solution.
The decidedly unspectacular site suggested that each program piece be small and iconic, dramatic and inviting. To the design team, the transitional landscape of the bus deck called for figural forms, pavilions that are iconographic objects within a field, accessible, and tactile, inviting interaction and commerce. The design team employed a metaphor derived from a Japanese rock garden that would be a spatial and temporal signifier.
The final installation provides food, shelter and commerce to travelers. Located on the pedestrian arrival deck that connects directly to the interior of Union Station, the pavilions are arranged in response to the common travel paths displayed by the passengers and visitors. There are four pavilions - one for information, one for shopping, one for shelter and a fourth for restroom facilities.
Pavilions 1+2 - The Information + Vending space is a booleaned ellipsoid monocoque form, rationalized for construction budgeting purposes as developable fiberglass reinforced panels, with bonded fiberglass rib structure. They are designed and positioned to draw passengers from the escalators to the shop and guide them to the waiting area.
Pavilion 3 - The waiting pavilion consists of a wood terrace for seating and a conditioned room for shelter. This space maintains direct visual access to the bus arrival & parking areas.
Pavilion 4 - The restroom pavilion is a repurposed shipping container.
The pavilions were fabricated primarily offsite, delivered on flatbed trucks and then lifted into place with forklifts.