Grand iconic vaulted ceilings recalling Roman Triumphal Arches and Baths suggest this building representsis an "imperial transportation palace" as conceived by its renowned architect "Daniel H. Burnham. The "Carriage Courts" stood at each end of the Station but were later removed in the 70s to accommodate a Metro tunnel, as well as access to the garage behind the station. Now the highly visible location adjacent to the West Portico creates a fitting backdrop for the BTC Transit Center as our attitudes toward transportation have evolved and been shaped by sustainable goals.
The approximately 1,750-square-foot structure is divided into two areas; bicycle parking and retail. The retail area will provide the following services: bicycle rental, repair and retail accessories. The facility will include the following program elements:
- secure parking for 150 bicycles
- non-secure parking for 40 bicycles
- short-term parking for 10 bicycles
- 50 square feet for a changing room
- 40 short- and long-term lockers
- 450 square feet of retail area
- 50 square feet of storage
In addition to providing these program elements, all stakeholders participating during the design process agreed that the center's prominent location could provide the opportunity to reach out to the larger public realm. Over time, the center could be a catalyst to stimulate bicycle use and alternative transportation means as an extension to the existing transit modes at Union Station.
Only 15 feet from one of the nation's major historic landmarks, the location posed some daunting design challenges. Coming to terms with Burnham's "Imperial Palace" demanded a healthy respect for an historic icon and its rich architectural vocabulary. The Triumphal Arch is repeatedly referenced in the monumental vaults and clerestories of Union Station, but within its order is clarity through an established hierarchy. The major halls are defined by stone clad and glazed barrel vaults with a more utilitarian shallow vault used in the train room where a larger span was required.
In sharp contrast to the stone clad surfaces, bronze frames, grills and light fixtures provide a rich vocabulary extending to the station's exterior and into the plaza. The original riveted steel platform canopies, out of sight but nonetheless relevant, are also recalled in the details of the BTC's intricate steel component construction. Though the intent of the BTC is to stand in contrast to Union Station, it also sits ais part of this family of the components that define Union Station. It stands in stark contrast to the massive granite walls adjacent to it, instead relating to its site context; reflecting the First Street bronze lamps and portal structures fronting Columbus Circle.
The adjacent vehicular and pedestrian circulation placed demands on the footprint of the structure and its location. Occasional bus access to the parking structure to the north required that the site accommodate two north- south access lanes west of the portico as well as the proposed (BTC). Just as significant were the approach vistas to Union Station from Massachusetts Avenue and Columbus Plaza. The West Portico of the station accommodates major entries to the station as well as containings the Metro entrance and retail functions.
Locating the structure to minimize obstruction to these vistas was a priority as well as minimizing disruption of the existing uses at the West Portico. Ideally, establishingmaintaininga comfortable separation between the structures would allow the new facility to compleiment Union Station while maintaining its integrity.
The Bicycle Transit Center is an extension to Union Station, presenting a new choice of transportation options for its users. Early in the design process KGP stressed the need to separate and differentiate the BTC from its predecessor neighbor in order to maintain the integrity of the historic Union Station and allow the (BTC) to clearly exhibit its unique function.
The center merges with its surroundings, adapting the vocabulary of the bronze portals and other landscape elements. The theme of "compatible differentiation" similarly extends to the center's detailing as a means of respecting its architectural surrounding and linking to its broader context.