Last week, Atlanta’s Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced the city will be setting up its first-ever transportation department. As one of the largest municipalities in the United States and one with debilitating congestion issues, this is a huge step in bringing more equitable mobility for Atlanta locals. The move is part of the mayor’s One Atlanta agenda, which aims to advance equity, diversity, and inclusion through the creation of a safe and welcoming city with world-class infrastructure, services, employment opportunities, and more. She aims to build a better-connected city through the new DOT, which will oversee the management of Atlanta’s 1,500 miles of streets, as well as its sidewalks and bike lanes. The agency will consolidate the road construction and repair efforts of the City’s Department of Public Works along with the planning department’s Office of Mobility. Capital roadway projects that are currently part of the city’s infrastructure investment program will also be integrated into the new DOT’s list of duties. Janette Sadik-Khan, former head of New York’s DOT and transportation official at Bloomberg Associates, will advise Atlanta in the creation of its own office. “A city’s success begins with its streets, and a dedicated department is critical to putting the transportation pieces together,” she said in a statement. “Atlanta has an unprecedented opportunity to change course on transportation, and Mayor Bottoms is showing the strong leadership that a city needs not to just grow but to make real progress for Atlantans.” The Atlanta Regional Commission estimates the metro region—which consists of nine Georgian counties and 5.8 million people—will increase in population by 2.5 million before 2040. While many working-class families in Atlanta rely on the city’s public transit services, including the MARTA system, it’s still a car-ridden town and organized offices such as the new DOT are expected to boost the region’s connectivity and help with long-term planning. Last December, Mayor Bottoms released Atlanta’s new transportation plan that will concurrently guide the future expansion of the city’s transportation services, increase its access and affordability, and help diminish Atlanta's overall dependency on cars.
Posts tagged with "Transportation":
The Hungarian Museum of Transport is on the move, and Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R), alongside local architecture firm Tempannon, has been chosen to design its new home in Budapest. Appropriately enough, the museum will move to a 17-acre site in the Northern Maintenance Depot in Kőbánya, a heavily industrialized area surrounded by both active and historical transportation infrastructure. The museum, one of the oldest transportation collections in Europe, is known for its wide showcase of both scale and full-sized buses, trains, cars, and other vehicles. The current building in Városliget has been closed for two years in anticipation of the move to the new site. The winning DS+R scheme heavily involves the idea of “ground transportation” and carving into the ground plane to afford visitors views from underneath the collection. By carving, lifting, and cutting into the ground, as well as using ample amounts of glass, the new museum will let guests explore the vehicles from every angle while still preserving them. Outside, a “Forecourt” will knit together the existing buildings on the site with the bike and pedestrian paths and railways. An intermingling of paved and landscaped areas, a picnic area, outdoor galleries, a café, and spaces for the nearby Törekvés Cultural Center will allow museum guests to decompress before and after entering. Carriage cars and locomotives will also adorn the Forecourt through a series of “breakout vitrines.” The museum itself will project from the Diesel Hall, a mid-century modern industrial building with nine, 360-foot-long parallel naves. Half of the new Grand Hall will remain in the Diesel building to reinforce the structure, while the other half will lie in the forecourt and create a symbolic bridge between old and new. A “second ground” will sit above the Gallery Hall and house space for special exhibitions, a museum café, and educational spaces, while providing uninterrupted views of the surrounding landscape. The museum's international design competition kicked off in August of last year. According to a statement by DS+R, the firm was selected out of a slew of other well-known practices: 3H Architecture, Amanda Levete Architects Ltd., Atelier Brückner GmbH, Bjarke Ingels Group, Caruso St John Architects, CÉH Zrt. + Foster & Partners, David Chipperfield Architects, Építész Stúdió Kft., KÖZTI Zrt. and Lacaton & Vassal Architects. No estimated completion date for the project has been given yet. As the proposed site sits on a brownfield, environmental remediation will need to be finished before construction can begin.
It's a Gas: The Allure of the Gas Station Edited by Sascha Friesike, with a preface by Jay Leno Gestalten $60.00The Current: New Wheels for the Post-Petrol Age By Paul d’Orléans, Robert Klanten, and Maximilian Funk Gestalten $50.00 Automobiles fascinate architects. Le Corbusier designed the Voiture Minimum; Buckminster Fuller, the Dymaxion; Renzo Piano, the Flying Carpet; and Norman Foster, the Routemaste. And while Charles and Ray Eames were posing with a Velocette motorcycle, Michael Czysz—founder of Architropolis, his firm—was designing the record-breaking MotoCzysz E1pc electric motorcycle. Given recent developments in electric vehicle (EV) innovations, designers may soon create new infrastructure for these silent, zero-emission vehicles. Two books from international publishing house Gestalten reflect on this crossroads with one foot on the accelerator and one hand on the wheel. Jay Leno—late-night comedian and automobile aficionado—introduces It’s a Gas: The Allure of the Gas Station, edited by Sascha Friesike. Leno recalls his childhood fascination with “grease monkeys,” tending vehicles, hot rods, and watching new models come and go. Leno also remarks on gas station architecture, including Richard Neutra’s now-demolished stations. From the introduction onward, Friesike’s volume takes us on a joyride around the world of gas stations. Gas stations never became a celebrated typology, despite celebrated architects like Albert Frey and Norman Foster designing them. It’s a Gas begins to address this curiosity. Friesike presents an aesthetic history of the gas station from its 1888 origins in a Wieshold, Germany, pharmacy to the contemporary designs of Philippe Samyn and Partners. Along the way, Friesike also casts his gaze on Arne Jacobsen’s 1936 rectilinear facility with a contrasting sinuous canopy—a beautiful prototype sadly never replicated—and Atelier SAD’s mushroom column canopy. Canopies are typological features that shield from sleet, sun, and rain, and can encompass concrete shells, decked trusses, or even a B-17 bomber. Some stations forgo the billboard and inhabit teapots, tee-pees, and cowboy hats. Novelty attracts customers (there even exist floating gas stations to service motorboats), but unfortunately, in the U.S., mega-pump filling stations like Buc-ees seem to pass for novel. Canopies can differ greatly. Postcards from Eugenio Grosso’s trek from Kurdistan to Sulaymaniyah, and Tim Hölscher’s photos of isolated gas pumps and stations highlight typological differences. Every modern master has had stops and starts in petroland. In Quebec, in 2011 (the book misdates it as 2002), Les Architectes FABG completed the conversion of Mies van der Rohe’s Neue Nationalgalerie-esque gas station into a community center. In 2014, the Pierce-Arrow Museum in Buffalo, New York, unveiled a non-operational version of Frank Lloyd Wright’s never-realized station. Equal parts nostalgia and premonition, “Ghost Town Gas Stations” closes It’s a Gas by questioning the gas station’s future. If their fall “from grace came as the golden age of flying was ushered in,” will they hit rock bottom now that EVs have hit the scene? The Current: New Wheels for the Post-Petrol Age by Paul d’Orléans, Robert Klanten, and Maximilian Funk leans into this question, examining the state of EVs. Motorcycle aficionado d’Orléans charges through a history of EVs before running the gamut of the latest electric transporters. Given the author’s focus on motorcycle history and customization (and from working with him personally at motorcycle film festivals), I was pleasantly surprised to see all manner of land vehicles included in his survey. EVs are ideal for urban commuting. Electronic cars and motorcycles have a range of 150 miles at highway speeds. Electric bicycles and scooters are more accessible, but fizzle out around 60-mile ranges at 35 mph. China has been leading this “e-volution” by changing licensing classifications on e-scooters and banning internal combustion engine (ICE) scooters in large cities, leading to myriad manufacturers and sales of e-scooters. Other countries have been slower to adopt EVs, despite riders’ praise of their “fun factor” and sustainability. To combat customer hesitation, Taiwan-based electric scooter manufacturer Gogoro designed an e-scooter with batteries that can be easily exchanged. A subscription-based station network in Taipei supports its riders, who have already collectively logged 186 million miles. This infrastructure is key to reassuring potential riders that their destinations can be reached. Similar networks are now being planned for Paris and Berlin. Even mainstream manufacturers are flipping the switch. BMW developed an e-motorcycle weighing in at 600 pounds—a whale by industry standards, as many other models hover at around 250 pounds. Other large manufacturers developing EVs on the two- and four-wheel front include KTM, Yamaha, Porsche, Lamborghini, and Honda. Tackling a more sustainable approach, Ferrari has developed an E-Type concept retrofit for its 1950s through ’70s models. Taking sustainability further, the Dutch e-scooter Be.e boasts a flax and bio-resin body that foregoes the use of metal and carbon. Waarmaker—the designers of the scooter—said of their design process: “Form follows material and production.” Many EVs don’t travel far from the traditional styling of their ICE cousins. D’Orléans explains: “Designers walk a fine line of trying to push the boundaries of styling and technology while catering to a surprisingly conservative streak among the supposed rebels on two wheels.” The same goes for cars—witness name-brand dealer offerings. Thankfully, d’Orléans’s arc surpasses workaday solutions to showcase more provocative and lesser-known innovators. Joey Ruiter, who has designed furniture for Herman Miller, eschewed telltale signs in his Consumer car and Moto Undone motorcycle: Both are pared-down, minimal, rectilinear forms, in black and mirror finishes, respectively. These vehicles, while alluring, do not reference any stereotypical automotive styling. Bandit9 Motors’ bespoke L-Concept motorcycle is a tube with a turbine attached on two wheels. Meanwhile, Ujet’s Electric Scooter looks traditional but has an asymmetrical folding frame and battery-seat module that can be detached like a portable, wheeled tote for easy recharging. BMW’s Motorrad VISION NEXT 100 concept vehicle at once mimics the lines of the company’s first motorcycle and resembles a Tron Light Cycle. United Nude’s black crystalline Lo Res Car is as mysterious as Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey monolith. EVs and their potential infrastructures are inherently sci-fi. The books by Friesike and d’Orléans are both beautifully designed and illustrated, and one won’t find better volumes on EVs and gas stations without traveling to the realm of the overly technical. The Current lists specifications with its case studies, but highlights design, not mechanics. It’s a Gas exposes a new typology without drilling into the industry. Together these books anticipate the future of automobile architecture, including approaches to designing adaptive reuses of filling stations and exploring new types of e-stations.
Brought to you with support fromFarren International, a one-stop-shop logistics operation founded in 1959, has carved a niche for itself shipping extra-extra-large items. Operating across most of the European Union, North America, and the United Arab Emirates, the outfit transports over one million tons per year globally by plane, train, and automobile (and a significant number of cargo ships). The company’s principal storage facility, a 400,000-square-foot warehouse in Ledgewood, New Jersey, is littered with shrink-wrapped Chinook helicopters, stacks of Yamasaki motorcycles, and 30-foot power turbines, among other items. Over the last decade, Farren International has embedded itself in leading mega-developments across New York City, transporting all of the facade cladding for towers such as New York’s Freedom Tower, and 15 and 55 Hudson Yards. With a fleet of 75 heavy-duty brand trucks, such as Oshkosh, Peterbilt, and Kenworth, Farren International has established itself as an expert in the transport of superloads—an indivisible load surpassing 16 feet in height and width, 125 feet in length, and in excess of 200,000 pounds—or as CEO and president of Farren International, Phil Antonucci, puts it, cargo that is “high, wide, and heavy.” The herculean task of corralling facade components from across the globe is often overlooked in the construction process: It includes the warehousing of thousands of tons of material in an orderly fashion and ultimately shipping components to construction sites. An in-house workshop at the New Jersey facility—hidden behind countless shelves and mountains of cargo, including enormous turbines and transformers—is charged with customizing flatbeds and other means of specialized transport for particular items. Considering the sheer lumbering mass of these transports—formats include tandem trucks hauling up to 140-foot-long modular trailers—plotting routes is akin to planning a minor military campaign. Scouts armed with measuring instruments and high poles spend up to one month at a time surveying potential routes, testing corners and overpass heights to ensure that convoys arrive at their location undamaged and on time. 15 Hudson Yards Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s recently completed 15 Hudson Yards is a 910-foot-tall residential skyscraper clad in a multitude of facade materials. For the project, Farren International collaborated with Related Companies–affiliated New Hudson Facades to transport curtain wall panels to the construction site. Assembled just south of Philadelphia, the panels were first trucked more than 100 miles to Farren’s multi-acre storage facilities in New Jersey. Over the course of two years, Farren shipped approximately 36 panels a day to the construction team on the ground for erection, with the panels weighing between 3,000 and 5,000 pounds each. Transformer Transport When Farren International is not transporting hundreds of tons of facade components or hulking military equipment, the logistics operation is moving crucial infrastructural components across the globe. In 2016, the team plotted the journey of a 415,000-pound transformer from a manufacturer in Brazil to Port Newark in New Jersey. From this juncture, the team loaded the transformer onto a barge that was pushed up the Hudson River and through the Erie Canal to Rochester, New York. Once on land, the transformer was lifted onto a Goldhoffer trailer, pushed forward by two tandem Oshkosh trucks, and installed at a local electrical substation. Chinook Helicopters The CH-47 Chinook is a 99-foot-long heavy lift helicopter with a potential payload of over 10 tons. When decommissioned by the United States Armed Forces and other purchasers of Boeing’s military-industrial wares, Chinooks begin new lives as civilian aircraft. Since 2014, Farren International has transported dozens of these double-rotor helicopters—2,500 miles on land from Meridianville, Alabama, to Columbia Helicopters in Oregon—on their fleet of flatbed trucks with an in-house-designed set of fittings and equipment, including customized nose and wheel cradles and upgraded lifting devices. In addition to the Chinook, Farren International transports a motley crew of smaller aircraft, including the Sikorsky S-92, the UH-60 Blackhawk, and even decommissioned Air Force Ones.
The aged elevated highway that famously borders downtown Seattle along its waterfront is set to officially close this Friday as part of the city's multi-pronged tunnel replacement project. The two-mile Alaskan Way Viaduct, also known as State Route 99, has blown past its recommended lifespan and has long been considered a major hazard to the city and its drivers. Its upcoming closure marks the beginning of a new transportation system for the whole city, but the saga leading up to this point has been harrowing. After a 6.8-magnitude earthquake struck Seattle in 2001, causing widespread panic about the then 48-year-old highway’s structural safety, the city and state began more seriously studying options to replace the viaduct. The Washington State Department of Transportation settled on a plan in 2004 that would include the build-out of a shallow, six-lane tunnel, but opposition soon arose over the project’s exorbitant cost and lengthy proposed construction timeline. After years of arguments, the most dangerous part of the highway, which sat south of downtown, was eventually demolished in 2011. Two years later, Seattle began making way for the tunnel, but the boring machine used to burrow the tunnel’s diameter broke down four months into its 1.7-mile journey underneath the city. It took another two years to repair the machine and digging began again in late December 2015. Despite more setbacks, including a large, unexpected sinkhole, the tunnel boring project was completed in spring 2017. It’s expected to open up to vehicular traffic in four weeks. Next steps include the demolition of the remaining standing viaduct and the construction of a street-level boulevard along its footprint. Dubbed the New Alaskan Way, it will line the edge of Elliot Bay. Once that's complete, the entirely revamped highway system will stretch northbound in two directions starting from Seattle’s major sports stadiums, CenturyLink and Safeco Fields, which are situated south of downtown. The SR 99 tunnel route begins adjacent to the arenas and runs northeast underneath the city toward a northern portal near Seattle Center, the home of the Space Needle. Drivers will be able to bypass downtown through the tunnel or the waterfront street-level surface highway or simply exit onto city streets. The decision to build both an underground highway and an elongated boulevard is an unconventional approach to mid-century transportation replacement projects. Cities around the country are currently grappling with similar situations revolving around dilapidated infrastructure, but Seattle’s struggle has been on the global stage for quite some time. After all, the Alaskan Way Viaduct should have come down decades ago when experts first saw signs of damage. It’s interesting to see a major metropolis, one sitting at sea level no less, choose this multi-project plan that for years created a mess of construction chaos and citywide debate. Though the pedestrian-friendly New Alaskan Way will likely do wonders to connect downtown Seattle with its industrial waterfront—a much-needed intervention—at a total of $3.3 billion it’s hard not to see this decision as both a big win for the city's future and a big burden for its present.
At an awards ceremony at Manhattan’s Center for Architecture on October 8, representatives from AIA New York (AIANY) and the New York chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLANY) gathered for the first annual Transportation + Infrastructure Design Excellence Awards (T+I Awards). The winners, winnowed down from a pool of 67 entrants, showed excellence in both built and unrealized projects related to transportation and infrastructure, with a heavy emphasis on work that integrated sustainability and engaged with the public. Outstanding greenways, esplanades, and transit improvement plans were lauded for their civic contributions. A variety of merit awards were handed out to speculative projects, and the Regional Plan Association (RPA) was honored a number of times for the studies it had commissioned as part of the Fourth Regional Plan; it was noted that many of the solutions proposed in past Regional Plans had eventually come to pass. The jury was just as varied as the entrants: Donald Fram, FAIA, a principal of Donald Fram Architecture & Planning; Doug Hocking, AIA, a principal at KPF; Marilyn Taylor, FAIA, professor of architecture and urban design at the University of Pennsylvania; David van der Leer, executive director of the Van Alen Institute; and Donna Walcavage, FASLA, a principal at Stantec. Meet the winners below:
Best in CompetitionThe Brooklyn Greenway Location: Brooklyn, N.Y. Designers: Marvel Architects, Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects, WE Design Landscape Architecture, eDesign Dynamics, Horticultural Society of New York, and Larry Weaner Landscape Associates Now six miles long and growing, the waterfront Brooklyn Greenway project kicked off in 2004 with a planning phase as a joint venture between the nonprofit Brooklyn Greenway Initiative (BGI) and the RPA. The 14-mile-long series of linear parks has been broken into 23 ongoing capital projects under the New York City Department of Transportation’s purview—hence the lengthy list of T+I Award winners. Funding is still being raised to complete the entire Greenway, but the BGI has been hosting events and getting community members involved to keep the momentum going.
HonorHunter's Point South Park Location: Queens, N.Y. Park Designers: SWA/Balsley and Weiss/Manfredi Prime Consultant and Infrastructure Designer: Arup Client: New York City Economic Development Corporation With: Arup The second phase of Hunter’s Point South Park opened in June of this year and brought 5.5 new acres of parkland to the southern tip of Long Island City. What was previously undeveloped has been converted into a unique park-cum-tidal wetland meant to absorb and slow the encroachment of stormwater while rejuvenating the native ecosystem. Hunter’s Point South Park blends stormwater resiliency infrastructure with public amenities, including a curved riverwalk, a hovering viewing platform, and a beach—all atop infill sourced from New York’s tunnel waste.
MeritRoberto Clemente State Park Esplanade Location: Bronx, N.Y. Landscape Architect: NV5 with Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects Client: New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation With: AKRF, CH2M Hill
CitationSpring Garden Connector Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Landscape Architect: NV5 Client: Delaware River Waterfront Corporation With: Cloud Gehshan, The Lighting Practice
MeritThe QueensWay Location: Queens, N.Y. Architect: DLANDstudio Architecture and Landscape Architecture, and WXY Architecture + Urban Design Client: The Trust for Public Land Could a High Line ever land in Queens? That’s what The Trust for Public Land set out to discover, tapping DLAND and WXY to imagine what it would look like if a 3.5-mile-long stretch of unused rail line were converted into a linear park. The project completed the first phase of schematic design in 2017 using input from local Queens residents, but fundraising, and push-and-pull with community groups who want to reactivate the rail line as, well, rail, has put the project on hold.
MeritNexus/EWR Location: Newark, N.J. Architect: Gensler Client: Regional Plan Association With: Ahasic Aviation Advisors, Arup, Landrum & Brown
MeritThe Triboro Corridor Location: The Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens, N.Y. Architect: One Architecture & Urbanism (ONE) and Only If Client: Regional Plan Association Commissioned as part of the Fourth Regional Plan, Only If and ONE imagined connecting the outer boroughs through a Brooklyn-Bronx-Queens rail line using existing freight tracks. Rather than a hub-and-spoke system with Manhattan, the Triboro Corridor would spur development around the new train stations and create a vibrant transit corridor throughout the entire city.
HonorFulton Center Location: New York, N.Y. Design Architect: Grimshaw Architect of Record: Page Ayres Cowley Architects Client: NYC Metropolitan Transit Authority With: Arup, HDR Daniel Frankfurt, James Carpenter Design Associates Fulton Center was first announced in 2002 as part of an effort to revive downtown Manhattan’s moribund economy by improving transit availability. Construction was on and off for years until the transit hub and shopping center’s completion in 2014, and now the building connects the 2, 3, 4, 5, A, C, J, and Z lines all under one roof (the N, R, and W trains are accessible through an underground passage to Cortlandt Street). Through the use of a large, metal-clad oculus that protrudes from the roof of the center, and the building’s glazed walls, the center, which spirals down from street level, is splashed with natural light.
MeritNumber 7 Subway Line Extension & 34th Street-Hudson Yards Station Location: New York, N.Y. Architect: Dattner Architects Engineer of Record: WSP Client: MTA Capital Construction With: HLH7 a joint venture of Hill International, HDR, and LiRo; Ostergaard Acoustical Associates; STV
MeritMississauga Transitway Location: Ontario, Canada Architect: IBI Group Client: City of Mississauga, Transportation & Works Department With: DesignABLE Environments, Dufferin Construction, Entro Communications, HH Angus, WSP
MeritDenver Union Station Location: Denver, Colorado Architect: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) Landscape Architect: Hargreaves Associates Client: Denver Union Station Project Authority (DUSPA) With: AECOM, Clanton & Associates, Kiewit Western, Tamara Kudrycki Design, Union Station Neighborhood Company
StudentTurnpike Metabolism: Reconstituting National Infrastructure Through Landscape Student: Ernest Haines Academic Institution: MLA| 2018, Harvard Graduate School of Design Anyone’s who’s ever cruised down a highway knows that equal weight isn’t necessarily given to the surrounding landscape. But what if that weren't the case? In Turnpike Metabolism, Ernest Haines imagines how the federal government can both give deference to the natural landscapes surrounding transportation infrastructure and change the design process to allow nature to define routes and structures.
Here are some things for sale at Buc-ee’s: dozens of varieties of beef jerky, jalapeño pepper jelly, fudge, yoga pants, gun cases, faux rusticated wood accoutrements, faux rhinestone belts, cowboy art, meaty kolaches, deer corn, American Hunter game feeders, artisan soap, camo tote bags, sports memorabilia, gummy worms, brisket, BBQ smokers, and just about anything else one could possibly want emblazoned with the portrait of the store's mascot, a cartoon beaver. For the uninitiated, Buc-ee’s is a Texas gas station chain and so much more. Started in Lake Jackson, outside of Houston, by Arch “Beaver” Aplin III in 1982, the chain now has 33 locations throughout the eastern half of the state. Like a watering hole on the suburban savannah, these mega-size mini-marts serve as a social condenser: They provide a place where the diverse populations of Texas can graze together. To generate anticipation, Buc-ee’s maintains billboards hundreds of miles out from its stores, inducing in travelers’ minds a yearning for a bathroom break and a bag of “Buc-ee's nug-ees” before they know their desires themselves. The ads are meme-worthy and infectious: “OMG! It’s a beaver! LOL!,” “My overbite is sexy,” “The Top Two Reasons to Stop at Buc-ee's: Number 1 and Number 2,” and “Only 262 miles to Buc-ee’s. You can hold it.” They lodge in the brain much like the chain's corn nug-ees stick in one's teeth. Buc-ee’s are big. Full-size versions of the store sport over 100 gas pumps. They are truck stop–scaled attractions with no trucks, as big rigs are not allowed at the chain. The number of pumps makes for an absurdly long shade canopy, as if the plan of a normal gas station was enlarged in one dimension prior to construction. It is a gesture of logistical horizontality, and the form embodies the engulfing flatness of a state that takes 12 hours to cross diagonally. The structure captures the state’s vitality and artificiality; architecturally, Buc-ee's inspires the same synthetic blend of patriotism and awkwardness as a stretch Hummer. Some locations include car washes, built with the same strip mall vocabulary as the main building. At the recently opened Buc-ee’s in Katy, the conveyor belt apparatus is 255 feet long and officially set the Guinness World Record for the world's longest car wash. But there’s an ecological reason for this. According to Aplin, quoted in the Houston Chronicle, the car wash's length and the number of brushes involved means that it uses less water than smaller operations: “You're not trying to do it in 50 feet. You have more time…It's very eco-friendly." Inside, the store’s most valuable amenity is its clean restrooms. The bathrooms are immaculately maintained and generously sized, with fully enclosed toilet rooms that are finished, as Kevin Bacon’s character from Tremors might describe it, in tile that goes “all the way up.” After heeding the call of nature, one is immersed in the overwhelming expanse of the retail floor. It feels like a to-go Cracker Barrel on steroids with fewer rocking chairs and more truck nuts. As in a casino, disorientation and interiority dominate the senses. Typically, drink coolers and snack racks are to the right, prepared and fresh food kiosks are in the middle, and hard and soft goods are to the left. Flagship locations are larger than grocery stores, although beyond jams and spices, the stores don’t really sell raw food materials. Square beige tile covers the floors and walls everywhere. Above, the 2x4 pattern of fluorescent lights is a relentless perspectival companion, the grid against which the goods are seen and reflected on every individually packaged unit of merchandise. Buc-ee's is big business for its owners and a decent job for its employees. A sign advertises wages for cashiers starting at $14/hour, nearly the $15/hour rate recommended by some progressives as a baseline minimum wage. Municipalities, knowing the chain's popularity, shell out to land new locations. This year, a Buc-ee's will open in Denton, where the city agreed to $8.1 million in sales tax reimbursements in exchange for the new 38-acre development. The appeal is legitimate, as each location attracts scores of motorists and generates up to 200 jobs, all contributing to the state's strong economy. Buc-ee's bustles at all hours in its performance of consumer culture. Here, people from all walks of life, about to partake in all kinds of activities, arrive in hot pursuit of sustenance and supplies. Much as Buc-ee’s creates its own network of road trip destinations today, in the early 1970s the Truckstop Network, a project by the briefly Houston-based Ant Farm, reimagined the American freeway system as an infrastructure for “media nomads.” They proposed a set of support modules that would provide essential services for travelers, as well as communication services to allow for the broadcast of original content directly to the public. But now that unlimited streaming is the norm, the mediatized aspect of Ant Farm's dream feels outdated. What endures are the creature comforts that still spur us to pull over and join the masses in search of junk food and cheap fountain drinks. In the deserted expanses of roadside America, it is a welcome surprise to suddenly be lost in an air-conditioned crowd as it circulates around a Buc-ee's interior, swirled along by the currents of individual appetites, only to quickly return to one's vehicle, as there are no places to sit down, inside or outside. This dance is overseen by the gaze of the eponymous beaver, a ubiquitous character in the store that oscillates between appearing cheery and creepy, depending on one's mood. The creature's unblinking eyes peer out from every piece of branded product, its buck-toothed mouth frozen open. If able to speak, what would Buc-ee say? Despite the store's appearance of American monoculture, culinary diversity sneaks in; the New Braunfels location offers 37 varieties of jerky, including “bohemian garlic, cherry maple, and ghost pepper,” according to NPR. Like a ten-year high school reunion or an acid trip, Buc-ee's triggers many surprises about one's self and the world. As a lovesick essayist wisely observed, “You go to Buc-ee's for the same reason you break up with someone: to pursue possibility, that narcotic promise of more.” In Content, OMA described a “social condenser” as a "programmatic layering upon vacant terrain to encourage dynamic coexistence of activities and to generate, through their interference, unprecedented events." This matches the chaos of Buc-ee’s. It's not a socialist Narkomfin, where workers might promenade in productive collision after their collective labors, but a capitalist terrain where citizens can stock up on sugared nuts, psychedelic beaver socks, and signs that read, “The most important kitchen utensil is the corkscrew.” Buc-ee's may not be the social condenser we need, but it's the social condenser that shows us everything we didn't know we always wanted.
This article is the second in a series that originally appeared in AN's July/August 2018 issue which focuses exclusively on Texas and was guest edited by AGENCY. The rest of the essays will be released in the coming days and examine architecture and practice across the southern border of the United States. These days the conversation about the United States–Mexico border is dominated by the implications of building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico. But back in the mid-1960s, there were concerted binational efforts to build a monorail to further connect the commercial districts of two cities conceived as part of one binational community. A 1965 document outlining the proposal for a Juárez-El Paso Monorail System invoked the common origins of both cities. The river was referred to as an obstacle to be overcome: “No other metropolitan community of equal size has been so restricted and contained by so relatively a small item as a channelized river.” Recently, the idea for a monorail has surfaced again, but this time riding on top of a 2,000-mile border wall promoted by an American president to further separate the U.S. and Mexico. The 1960s were a period when ideas for urban planning boomed in the Juárez/El Paso border area. This was the context of the 1965 proposal for a transportation project designed to move passengers back and forth across the border. Although the idea did not come to fruition, it gives a glimpse of how certain sectors viewed the future of Juárez/El Paso as an integrated border metroplex. A prototype of the monorail can be seen in the 1967 film adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s novel Fahrenheit 451 by Francois Truffaut. It was built on the outskirts of Paris as a demonstration facility by SAFEGE, the company chosen to install the El Paso/Juárez monorail. Guy Montag, the main character, enjoys a smooth ride between the city and the suburban neighborhood where he lives. The suspended train featured in the movie is the same as that in the photomontages published in the booklet that circulated in the Juárez/El Paso area two years earlier. It was estimated that the nonstop ride between stations would transport commuters between the San Jacinto Plaza and the Juárez bullring in less than three minutes. Both cultural and aesthetic considerations were made, along with technical, commercial, and other economic aspects of the interaction between the two cities. The project was proposed not just to satisfy a growing demand for a rapid transit system that would minimize crossing time, but also as a potential tourist attraction. It anticipated that visitors from all over the world would visit “to witness the most advanced form of mass transit functioning commercially in a modern community.” It would have been an invitation to take a glimpse into a science fiction future, one where limitations imposed by geopolitical borders were meant to be overcome. The design considered how to implement inspection of passengers by Mexican and American immigration and customs officials, and proposed that this process would take place upon arrival at either station rather than at traditional border checkpoints. The document stressed that authorities considered this viable. But did this pitch really correspond with the sociopolitical context of the epoch? Or was this early globalization, pro-trade discourse merely boosting rhetoric aimed at gaining sympathizers for a binational entrepreneurial group trying to get a piece of the border transportation business? At first glance, the mid-1960s were a promising time for a project that gave the impression that Juárez/El Paso were twin cities living in harmony. But in fact, these notions were contrary to national border control policies that produced the infamous Operation Wetback, which resulted in numerous human rights violations and the deportation of over a million people. More recently, Donald Trump has been reviewing prototypes for a different kind of border project: the construction of an “unscalable” and “unpenetrable” wall. His idea has prompted architects and builders from both countries to make proposals. Earlier this year The New York Times ran an article posing the question, “Is Donald Trump, wall-builder-in-chief, a conceptual artist?” It was a report about Christoph Büchel, himself a conceptual artist who circulated a provocative petition seeking to save the prototypes—built with $3.3 million in federal funds—from demolition by invoking the Antiquities Act of 1906. According to Büchel, the set of textured slabs, which can be seen from across the border, was “a major land art exhibition of significant cultural value.” Not surprisingly, the petition created an uproar in the art world. Although some proposals were made in jest and did not reach the prototype stage, there have been numerous bids that attempt to subvert Trump’s purpose to isolate and supposedly protect the United States from the perils of contact with its southern neighbors. The New York Times reviewed a dystopian parody consisting of a 2,000-mile pink wall, housing seemingly disparate facilities like a detention center and a mall. This was a collaborative effort by Estudio 3.14, a design group in Guadalajara, Mexico, and the Mamertine Group, a design lab at the University of Connecticut. The designers used minimalist concepts and colors reminiscent of the style of influential Mexican architect Luis Barragán: “It is a prison where 11 million undocumented people will be processed, classified, indoctrinated, and/or deported.” The project also contemplates the wall housing a mall with a Macy’s in the Tijuana section. The San Diego Union-Tribune accounted for an apparently serious plan presented by a Southern California firm named National Consulting Service that envisioned a wall topped by a monorail serving both countries. The train would run along the border and would feature “voice analysis technology to detect different emotional states of riders to possibly assist law enforcement.” According to the firm, the system was designed to keep Americans safe, but also to improve and revitalize sister cities along the border. The future is still in the past.
It’s no hyperloop, but construction of a 200-mile-per-hour bullet train from Houston to Dallas could begin as early as next year. Add in the recently announced Amtrak partnership that will cover last-mile trips and tie into the rail company’s established interstate network, and Texas is looking at a major mass transit expansion. Developers Texas Central Partners (TCP) will be privately financing the $15 billion, 240-mile-long high-speed rail line, and have been on a public outreach spree as they attempt to drum up support and garner feedback for their proposal. TCP argues that the Texas Bullet Train will bring in $3 billion in state and local tax revenue through 2040, in addition to the $36 billion in direct spending; not to mention the tens of thousands of projected construction jobs. TCP is still hashing out the exact station locations but are planning on building the 60-acre Dallas stop south of the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center, with a footbridge from the station to the convention center. On the other side of the 90-minute trip in Houston, TCP has chosen the city’s Northwest Mall as the preferred location for their station. The mall site will give way to a 45-acre, multi-level train complex with easy access to I-610 and U.S. 290. Additional stops between the two cities, such as in the city of Byran/College Station, have already been confirmed. Still, not everyone is on board with the rail plan, and landowners along the proposed route have fought and lobbied their state legislators over the company possible use of eminent domain to acquire their property. TCP has outlined their process for picking up the required properties, including offering market value for parcels in the Bullet Train’s path and pledging to minimize the impact on landowners. That hasn’t stopped the opposition from filing a flurry of bullet train bills in the state Senate, though only two of the proposed twenty measures managed to pass. As a result the state will not use taxpayer fund for the project, a move that TCP did not oppose. The free-market funding requirement hasn’t slowed the Bullet Train's progress down, and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), a subsection of the United States Department of Transportation, has given the draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) the green light. The FRA also proposed an optimal route that would disrupt the least amount of people, and engineering and construction firms WSP, Fluor, Bechtel, and Lane Construction are now all helping to lay the groundwork for the project’s eventual construction. The Amtrak tie-in certainly won’t hurt the project’s chances, but high-speed rail remains notoriously expensive. Although high-speed rail has historically floundered in the U.S., such as the $77 billion north-south bullet train currently under construction in California, TCP's business plan, and the use of private funds, combined with the high level of government support, has helped the project avoid the hurdles plaguing similar projects. "We are working on the train every day," said TCP spokesperson Holly Reed. "This is the right project being done the right way at the right time - the Texas Way. That means it will be the safest way to travel in the world, built and operated based on data-driven decisions from free market principles and no state appropriations. Texas is proving again to be a leader in transportation, and the train is a key tool in the state’s infrastructure toolbox as a safe, reliable and environmentally friendly option that efficiently will move our growing population."
Smart Cities New York (SCNY) is North America’s leading global conference exploring the emerging influence of cities in shaping the future. With the global smart city market expected to grow to $1.6 trillion within the next three years, Smart Cities New York is guided by the idea that smart cities are truly "Powered by People". The conference brings together thought leaders from public and private sectors, academia and NGOs to discuss investments in physical and digital infrastructure, health, education, sustainability, security, mobility, workforce development, and more, to ensure cities are central to advancing and improving urban life in the 21st century and beyond.
What if you could cut the travel time between two cities from a an hour's drive to less than 15 minutes? That's Virgin Hyperloop One's plan for a high-tech, high-speed autonomous transportation system that could one day link Abu Dhabi and Dubai. And now, with the unveiling of a prototype design for the pods that will carry commuters at nearly the speed of sound through low-pressure tubes using magnetic levitation, the plan is inching closer to reality. The first hyperloop pod prototype, created by Virgin Hyperloop One in conjunction with Dubai's Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), debuted last week as part of UAE Innovation Month, and it gives travelers the first sense of what a trip on the future 'loop might really look like. And, no surprise given that Richard Branson is a major investor, the vibe is very Virgin: sleek, modern, and bathed in moody colored light. The dream of hyperloop transportation has been one of tech's most hyped ideas since Tesla entrepreneur Elon Musk proposed the idea with a white paper back in 2013. While the billionaire entrepreneur is not involved with this particular project, Virgin Hyperloop One has big plans of its own for the developing technology, including other on-demand travel networks linking Los Angeles to Las Vegas and Mumbai to Pune. Along with its high speed, the hyperloop is contained underground and completely autonomous, which may be a major factor in reaching the RTA's goal of making as many as 25 percent of travel in Dubai driverless by 2030. The Dubai-Abu Dhabi hyperloop is expected to one day transport up to 10,000 people per hour between the two Emirati hubs, which are located about 75 miles apart, when it opens to the public, which could be as early as 2020. The Emirati hyperloop will be anchored by a B.I.G.–designed transport hub, making it clear that even when you take time out of the travel equation, things can still still look mighty futuristic.
On January 26, the Chicago Transit Authority announced its ideal path for the proposed expansion of the city’s Red Line south branch. The expansion, the system's first since 1993, is a major aspect of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s “Red Ahead” initiative to modernize and lengthen Chicago’s busiest train line. Over 240,000 Chicagoans ride the city’s Red Line on an average weekday, representing over 40 percent of "L" ridership. The “Red Ahead” initiative has already delivered tangible improvements to the second largest transport system in the country. Currently, a transit terminal designed by Chicago-based Exp. is rising on 95th Street, the current southern terminus of the Red Line. The $280 million project entails the renovation of the existing North Terminal and the construction of an entirely new South Terminal, with the intended goal of increasing passenger capacity for existing and future commuter demand. The renovated and expanded station will also include two new public artworks by Chicago-based artist Theaster Gates, and is expected to open in 2018. The Chicago Tribune reports that the proposed route runs from 95th Street, along the preexisting Union Pacific freight tracks, to 130th Street. This route will expand the Red Line by 5.3 miles, add four new stations, and is estimated to cost $2.3 billion. State and local funding for the project is not yet fully realized, and considering the budget priorities laid out by the Trump administration’s recently-leaked infrastructure plan, crucial federal funding remains precarious at best. The earliest the project will break ground is 2020, with an approximate four-year construction timeline. The new stations, located on 103rd Street, 111th Street, Michigan Avenue, and 130th Street, will feature bus and parking facilities as a measure to decrease vehicular congestion within the greater Chicago area. As noted by NBC Chicago, the 5.3-mile extension primarily serves Chicago’s Far South Side, an area currently designated as a “transit desert” due to its lack of public transport. Expanding transportation opportunities in Chicago’s South Side could dramatically impact the area’s residents. According to CBS Chicago, the extension of the Red Line could shave 20 minutes off the commute from the Far South Side to Downtown Chicago, boosting the accessibility of affordable housing in the area. Although transportation projects tend to draw the ire of community groups, interviews conducted by the Chicago Tribune with residents and businesses across the proposed Red Line expansion reveal widespread support for the transit initiative. According to Progressive Railroading, a final environmental impact study for the project will be released following a February 13 open house with the surrounding community. Following the study, the CTA can apply for over $1 billion in federal funding. If funding is secured for the extension of the Red Line, the CTA will still have to contend with the approximately 150 private parcels along the proposed route. The financial and logistical hurdles are great, but the large-scale expansion of Chicago’s “L” could prove a boon to residents and city alike.