March 31, 2016

Open Air Bus Shelters Rejuvenate a Central Transit Hub in Germany

Jewelers and watch-makers may have earned Pforzheim, Germany, the nickname Goldstadt, meaning golden city. But there was little precious about its bus stations—strewn with trash and dimly lit. “Truly horrible. Also dangerous,” Metaraum Architekten principal Marcus Lembach remembers. To consolidate them into one hub and integrate it with the central train station, a long, low gray brick building from the 1950’s, Lembach and principals Marcus Huber and Wallie Heinisch conceived a solution that involves swooping open-air shelters.

Standing in what had been an amorphous zone between the train station and an overpass, the Zentraler Omnibusbahnhof, or ZOB, now comprises a trio of these shelters, each about 140 feet wide by 200 feet long, hovering like friendly UFOs as they provide not only protection from the wind and rain but also the safety that comes with good lighting at night. Some of the fluorescent fixtures are recessed into the shells, fabricated from panels of a lightweight gypsum-cement composite, and up-lights sprout from the structural columns rising from the concrete-block islands where passengers wait to board. With the fixtures as petals, the columns recall cheerful, lanky flowers for “playful contrast with the seriousness of the concrete,” Lembach explains. The plan is for power for all the lights to come from photovoltaic panels to be installed on the shelters’ roofs.

During the day, sunshine streams in through ovals cut out of the shells. Some apertures capture the sky, while those on the side offer glimpses of incoming and outgoing trains next door. As for buses, the ZOB now sees 1,700 municipal and regional departures daily from 13 stopping points, two or three per island. “It’s rather like watching TV,” Lembach says. The islands also feature cast-concrete benches that integrate screens providing real-time arrival information. Everything is wheelchair-accessible, including step-free paths to make it a quick and easy journey to transfer from bus to train or vice versa.

Throughout: Knauf Aquapanel: Structural Panels. Siteco Beleuchtungstechnik: Floodlights. WE-EF Leuchten: Recessed Ceiling Fix­tures. Day & Light Lichtplanung: Lighting Con­sultant. Engelsmann Peters Beratende Inge­nieure: Structural Engineer. P&H Hönes: Mep. STS Stahl­technik: Metalwork. Jaeger Ausbau: Panel Contractor.

> See more from the March 2016 issue of Interior Design

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