When choosing surfaces for transit hubs, designers
increasingly are looking to natural materials
and tones that reflect local geography and offer
interesting patterns. “When tile works well, you
don’t notice it. But something feels really good about
the space,” explains Stephen Brooke, vice president
of sales for ceramic tile manufacturer Mosa. “In each
range, we go from a cool to a warm palette, which
enables designers to integrate and to put different
collections together. You’re using a neutral base,
but varying between tiles.” Mosa’s tiles are colored
with a dry-pigment method (rather than a protective
coating) to emphasize their individual variation.
Transit-station furniture is trending toward increased
variation. “In offices, there’s this idea of multiple
kinds of environments for different ways of working.
I think that’s happening, too, in airports and other
transit stations,” notes Pablo Reich, executive vice
president for transit-seating manufacturer Arconas.
The company’s Place line of seating, for example,
is intended for working travelers and includes
built-in USB and electricity outlets (among the
most common passenger requests), as well as an
arm on which to place one’s laptop or food. These
seats, like raised tables with barstools, can anchor
a quieter area of their own, while leaving the more
plentiful traditional gate and food-court seating to
families and groups. Arconas also has introduced
corresponding products like the Leaf Lamp Tree,
a synthetic tree made of sound-absorbing material.
“If you have an extra couple of hours getting there
early or during a layover, you may not go straight to
the gate,” Reich says. “It’s about creating different
experiences in different parts of the terminal.”
is a journalist, photographer, and
award-winning filmmaker. His articles have
appeared in The New York Times,
The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic,
and Architectural Digest.
Wayfinding and Circulation
The Oculus’ civic symbolism aside, subway stations are ultimately about something
more practical: moving people across the city and through their subterranean spaces
efficiently. For a long-awaited extension of the New York subway up Second Avenue
on the Upper East Side, the architects at AECOM sought ease of use and a reduction in
the sense of confinement.
“The major differences between New York’s hundred-year-old stations and these new
stations is an attempt to maximize the volume so you’re not in a confined space visually,”
explains AECOM Vice President Kenneth Griffin. “We’ve opened the mezzanine above the
platforms to the maximum. Another feature is the elimination of columns and platforms.
All of the vertical circulation is sized properly, so the passenger experience of just getting
in and out of the station is unencumbered and pleasant.”
The designers sought to reduce the sometimes abrasive noise of the subway experience,
through a series of acoustical control measures, such as sound-absorbing ceiling panels.
They also worked to make the subway more accessible for all, particularly the visually
impaired. “Where we have a gray granite floor and a white porcelain wall, at the spot
where they come together is a black granite strip. You need to visually be able to identify
that intersection of a wall plane and a floor plane,” Griffin says. “Those are subtleties,
but it’s a big audience group.”
Ultimately, that’s the power of transit hubs. Ideally, they are a unifying and egalitarian
presence: functional architecture and interiors that are about getting people from
Point A to Point B. But, more than ever, transit hubs are being designed to make that
journey memorable and pleasant, and increasingly are becoming places even
non-travelers want to visit.
To improve the passenger
worked to maximize
the interior volume of
new subway stations in
(Image: Robb Williamson,
A next-generation public seating
system from Arconas, Place delivers
integrated power and USB at every
seat, generous tablet arms, drink
holders, under-seat storage, and
plenty of personal space.
was used in Toronto’s
Making Connections — By Brian Libby