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Making Multi-Modal Transport Connections

Process—————13 October 2014

The front and back of Washington DC’s Union Station present very different faces to the city. The front is Daniel Burnham’s Beaux Arts facade, reflecting the stately-ness of the Capitol and the National Mall beyond. The back of the Station gives way to progressively newer adaptations and additions, culminating in a concrete parking structure built in the 1980s. Now, with inter-city bus traffic arriving and departing from the rear of the station, as many people pass through the rear of the station as the front. The utilitarian rear facade also opens onto the revitalized H Street corridor. H Street’s new housing, retail, and offices are now connected by DC’s first new streetcar in more than half a century.

The Union Station Redevelopment Corporation realized that an entirely new axis of travel had sprung up in the facility, a north-to-south path that winds through the Beaux Arts parterre at the front of the station to the H Street pass-over at the rear. This axis was not formalized in any way, and its signage and way-finding was almost non-existent. Users had to figure out for themselves how to navigate the maze of bus deck, corridors, escalators, stairs, and ramps to get from H Street to the heart of the station.

Studio Twenty Seven Architecture has been brought in to create a unified way-finding system that connects the H Street entrance to the main station building. The image above shows a simple handrail that functions as a linear guide threading between the bus terminal loading areas and the street car thoroughfare. It also provides playful moments of respite, where the handrail bends to become a spot to sit or lean while waiting for a bus or checking a text message.

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