Although it gets more daily traffic than Midway Airport, Chicago’s main rail hub remains little more than a waypoint for most people—a bustling transit station buried beneath an often empty Beaux Arts volume.
The Metropolitan Planning Council wants to change that. Their new placemaking contest, Activate Union Station, calls on architects, landscape architects, planners and designers of all stripes to submit ideas for a design-build program that will enliven the underused West Loop hub.
Snøhetta has been selected to design the Qasr Al Hukum Downtown Metro Station in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, which will operate as a transfer point between two metro lines and a bus network. The Norwegian architecture firm’s design covers the station with a large stainless steel bowl, distinguishing it from the metropolitan framework, providing shade, and conducting light deep underground with its reflective surface through a central oculus. At night, light from retail shops and the subway platform shimmers across the metal’s surface. A garden occupies the center of the main pedestrian circulation area, which includes concourses and escalators that connect the lower platforms to the street. This oasis is an effort to convey the value of natural resources in the country’s desert environment.
While Santiago Calatrava’s soon-to-bo-soaring transportation hub at the World Trade Center is just not starting to rise from the ground, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has given us a glimpse of what’s been going on underground, complete with the classic articulated ribs that make Calatrava’s train stations so dynamic. And look at all that marble! Sure beats your standard New York City subway stop. This view is actually part of the east-west connector that will eventually be lined with retail shops.
The Philadelphia Zoo, squeezed between heavily trafficked arteries in Fairmount Park, isn’t the easiest place to access by rail service, and with a dip in attendance in the last few years, Zoo officials are pushing for a new SEPTA train station at 34th Street and Mantua Avenue. When the zoo first opened in 1854, there was a train station located right at the entrance, but it closed in 1902 when the Pennsylvania railroad expanded, complicating the public transit options.
Happy Birthday Grand Central Terminal! Today the 49-acre train station is turning 100 and celebrating this grand ‘ole affair with performances, events, and even a LEGO model of the Beaux-Arts style station itself, courtesy the LEGOLAND Discovery Center Westchester Station Master’s Office. Designed by Reed & Stern and Warren & Wetmore, the station is believed to be the largest station by number (44) of platforms in the world.
In honor of the Centennial, some of the retail shops and restaurants are even dropping their prices to 1913 levels, so commuters can grab a piece of cheesecake at the Oyster Bar for 19 cents. The New York Times also fired up its own time machine, posting the original supplement from 1913 when Grand Central first opened to the public. (You can download the PDF here.)