Bus shelters are atypical building types. In the mind of the collective, their utilitarian purpose relegates them to the realm of outdoor accessories, or, to paraphrase Le Corbusier’s famous dictum, they are “machines for waiting”. They sit somewhere in major thoroughfares, uncommitted to the specificity of their location. One look fits for all sites type of approach is the standard, albeit risky proposition of an object crowding the public realm, whose ubiquitousness is on the rise given the environmental concerns private transportation brought about worldwide.
The competition brief was as straightforward as factual: to design an all glass bus shelter in an unspecified rural area of Denmark, under the sponsorship of a glazing manufacturing company. Here pragmatic issues overlaps with concerns for place making. If form (what would it look like?) were to follow function alone (how do people seat in the bus shelter?), the architectural outcome would be derivative of its prepackaged logic. That, however, is not the case. The point of departure for the architecture of this entry is the formal negotiation between the delicacy of the glass and its structural integrity to meet the project’s programmatic purpose.
In the absence of any concrete input from the site to play off with, the design needed to be self-referential and authoritative in the landscape. Trees, weaving grass, and big canopies were key inspirational organic forms. The gentle nature of the Danish environment became the source for the proposed biomorphic volume. Like a graceful butterfly, this insect-like structure radiates its immaterial presence to its surroundings during the day as well as night. Despite its seemingly imminent flight from the ground, this artifact is securely anchored to the soil through unobtrusive steel connections. To reach maximum structural integrity, three U-shaped glass pods afford a variety of seating arrangements for those who are alone, couples, or groups of friends. This transparent container, almost a frozen membrane, is a place of protection, sheltering users from rain, wind, and sun. The elliptical photovoltaic panels laid on the roof and directly above the pods have the dual function of harnessing solar energy to power the structure and be sun shading devices to shield those sitting below. As objects lit up at night, bus shelters are billboards and beacons to be easily identifiable, while serving the occupants need to see out and catch the approaching vehicle. It is for this reason that LED lights follow the edges of the canopy and the photovoltaic panels defining its architecture even in complete Nordic darkness.
The ongoing dilemma with representational architecture is what level of abstraction can be applied between extreme of mere copying an object of the physical world and its utter lack of detail that makes it unrecognizable from its original source? Famed British architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner once wrote one of the most contentious statements in 20th century architecture: “A bicycle shed is a building; Lincoln Cathedral is a piece of architecture.” The design of this bus shelter might prompt a reassessment of that position.
Location Holbaek, Denmark
innosite, Holbaek, Denmark
Form4 Architecture / Downtown
F4 Team: John Marx
2016 Bronze, Transportation Architecture, American Architecture Prize
2016 Award Finalist, Unbuilt Transportation A+Award, Architizer
2015 German Design Award, German Design Council
2015 American Architecture Award, The Chicago Athenaeum
2015 Honorable Mention, Best Unbuilt Project, The Architect’s Newspaper Best of Design Awards
2015 Award Finalist, Architecture +Rendering A+Award, Architizer
2015 Honorable Mention, International Design Awards
2014 Public Building Concept, Honorable Mention, Re-thinking the Future Awards
2014 Future Projects/Competition Award, Shortlisted, World Architecture Festival
2014 Civic Buildings Award, Shortlist Award, WAN World Architecture News
2014 Iconic Awards Winner, German Design Council