The Houston Central Station Competition called for an iconic landmark station situated on the median strip on Main Street, between Capitol and Rusk. Here are the proposals of five award winning firms:
The proposal designed by ShoP Architects references the form of traditional train stations: columns supporting vaulted ceilings, lofted spaces that conjured images of grandeur, a firmness and solidarity that resonated with its surroundings. The tent like structure stretches beyond the platform, encompassing the surrounding urban space, thus breaking free from the restrictive narrow site. The 100 foot solar chimneys provide relief from heat, offer natural ventilation, helping air circulation. The form of the chimneys directs the rainwater so it wouldn’t disrupt the passenger flow.
Neil M. Denari Architects offered a steel structure; the concept was derived from the prevalent steel buildings of Houston, particularly Mies van der Rohe’s Museum of Fine Arts. The use of color evokes the surrounding icons of art and architecture, including sculptural works by Calder and even the George R. Brown convention center a few blocks away. Structure, signage, ticketing, lighting and seating are integrated and pertain to the single unique design gesture.
Architects at Lewis Tsurumaki Lewis envisioned a box like shelter with minimal interventions that marks the difference between the two directions served by the platform – the upturned corners transform the box into a structure symbolizing the anticipation of the arriving train. The structure is held in place by an array of 2’’ steel rods, which tether the volume to central columns. Steel is the primary material for the 9’’ vertical cladding strips, with the interior backlit with LED’s to form a luminous lantern at night.
The fact that Houston has a large amount of annual rainfall was the backbone of Snohetta’s proposal. The design sought to incorporate the concept of water by channeling rain down concrete spouts, thereby allowing users to interact with and experience water. The elegant arching structure contains within columns slices that direct the water to the drain pipes below. The cut-outs also provide visual and lighting interest for those awaiting the next train. Though visually engaging the interaction between users and water might present some practical problems: the areas of the platform where water is directed would have to be avoided, causing congestion and removing valuable open space on an already narrow platform.
Open Transfer, designed by Interloop Architecture, proposes a new formal threshold for Central Station. All movement through the site including light rail customers on foot, light rail vehicles and private vehicles pass through the threshold as they share the transfer zone. Characterized by the “spider” column support at the southern end of the platform canopy, the threshold allows egress from the platform below to occur unobstructed. Perspective View from Conductor’s Compartment: The spider column expands the space of the platform and creates a public threshold for passengers of light rail, public buses, and private automobiles to participate in the Open Transfer experience.