Airports, train and metro stations form a well know part of our collective memory. These are the go to places for fast and functional travel, and they have a character and experience of their own. The mostly resemble images from the past, the heroic years of steam driven trains and worldwide aviation.
Stations are also deeply routed in the urban fabric and live. Their presence oftentimes has helped urban areas to develop and thrive. Even from Roman times we know that infrastructure for them comes first, as a source for the city development.
Over the last decades many major stations have been overhauled to meet new standards. The extension of the transport program was integrated with connections to metro, bus and tram, and in Holland also to bicycles. Shopping malls were introduced, and offices and recently even housing. If carefully done and integrated in the urban fabric this approach can yield stunning results. In Holland we see good examples on all major stations in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Den Haag and Utrecht.
Waiting time can could be more useful and rewarding.
We are living in an exciting time and looking at a possible doubling of passengers in public transport in the coming 25 years. Our increased connectivity via the internet has not reduced our primary desire to travel, on the contrary. Rail and air travel have surged and the world has become smaller. Especially in dense urban areas public transport seems to be the only durable way forward. For pure lack of space, car mobility seems to become obsolete and demands for a better air quality and carbon footprint cannot be ignored.
A whole millennial generation is now growing up and expecting optimum connectivity both online and in the real build world. They almost see no difference between the two, and older generations are adopting fast. It is fair to say that the societal demand for better transport hubs is present, urgent and challenging.
Always online and living in a virtual connected world.
The question we are facing now is if the current developments in society are well accommodated in these new transport hubs. We can see and stimulate ourselves the use of a total-place agenda, which combines many different functions. But does this make us future proof enough? What about programming we don’t know yet? Programs are changing all the time, and once build they tend to become fixed. For architects and engineers it is an ongoing challenge to integrated all demands on site.
Some current developments strike me as important and meaningful to add to our agenda. First the open and connected society. A smart society that interacts and connects directly with the environment. Next obviously the durable or circular economy. Using renewable energy and reducing the carbon footprint is a must. Our buildings need to recirculate and adapting to new functionality easily.
Finally the human scale and perspective remains very important, since we build for people, not for techniques.
What if stations where re-invented to places where anything could happen? A big market place on one day, a flash mob or a conference spot on the next day. If we could build WITHOUT knowing a predefined function to accommodate? With extra capacity to serve many different possibilities, and even those we don’t know yet? That would certainly arouse more interest in travel, in future proofing, and in our well-being.
Let’s re-invent our transport hubs to attractive places of surprise and dynamic programming. Place where we can meet and connect, and go-to places with full and flexible integration of our lives demands.
Dynamic programming can even facilitate a suprise concert with 5 grand piano’s.