Boston BRT Competition Entry: Urban Lens

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The urban pace of life and overload of visual and social stimuli impacts how we perceive our richly layered city.  This proposal for the BostonBRT station is a direct response to the urban experience, a framework through which to perceive our city and our neighborhoods, and a blank canvas that relies on the community to provide its content.

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The building skin is conceived of as a blank canvas so as to not compete with or take away from the rich and varied character of our neighborhoods.  The enclosure is assembled from a double layer of translucent polypropylene to achieve reduced visibility to the immediate context from within, and vice versa.  Shadows, light and blurred edges are perceptible through the material, distorting the visual clues and creating abstracted patterns.

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Projections are used to express the culture of Boston and the immediate neighborhood, and its content can evolve, thereby establishing a unique identity for the BRT corridors.  Local artists can design light, video and sound installations which may change with the seasons, and there can be moments where all of the projections across the city are choreographed to highlight a holiday or sporting event.  The repeated blank canvases, distributed throughout the city, are then able to take on a life of their own.  Imagery specific to the neighborhood or location can be projected, as well as cultural and historic district identification.

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Information display and wayfinding is re-imagined through its integration with the building skin of the station.  Light is used to provide real-time information on arrival times, delays in service, and approaching buses.  Cameras in the double skin also project arrival times on the interior surfaces, making the canvas a responsive informational resource. Through its use and occupation, the community will provide the content, making each station a unique and ever-changing beacon throughout the day and night.

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This replicable blank canvas with its customizable features is repeated across the diverse neighborhoods of the Boston area, thus becoming a strong and consistent iconic brand of the Boston BRT system.

The bus station becomes a visual lens through which to re-experience the city at large and the neighborhoods specifically.   Views are curated through strategically placed openings in the building envelope:  isolating the sky, a local landmark, the passing feet on a neighboring sidewalk.  The sound of traffic and birds, whose visual stimuli have been removed, now create an urban soundtrack while waiting for the bus.  By editing the view, one experiences the isolated moments with heightened senses.

View03_10005The bus station as a mechanism for experience acknowledges its New England location and regional climate, while providing shelter in all seasons.  Adapting to the distinct times of year, the station subtly transforms its interior environment from a porch in the summer to a hearth in the winter.   In the summer the station opens up with the skylights fully retracted to allow for increased ventilation while electrical ceiling fans create additional breezes.  In the winter, the skylights are closed and radiant heating in the bench creates a hearth around which people can gather.

View04_10005To mitigate their overall impact on the environment, each station is fitted out with solar panels on the roof that will provide a portion of the electrical energy needed to run the station.  Any excess energy generation will be given back to the local community.

Conceived of as a direct response to the urban experience, this design is easily replicable and adaptable to potential future Boston BRT station locations.  Contextualism is achieved through art, light and community involvement.  By filtering the occupant’s sensory stimuli, the design provides a new lens through which to rediscover the neighborhood.  The BostonBRT station provides a cognitive reset, a moment of calm and reflection in an over-stimulated urban experience, and an opportunity to see our city with fresh eyes.