Train Station Translation: A Lesson in Design Vocabularies
A train station’s style has a lot to say.
Literally and figuratively, train stations connect municipalities. The station is the gateway to the tracks that lead people to other places. It is the face that a city or village shows to commuters, and, in many cases, an embodiment of a community’s values.
Midwestern stations adopt a variety of styles, ranging from the democratic idealism of Thomas Jefferson’s American Colonialism to the simple geometries (and sometimes even starkness) of the Contemporary Style. Every style has a unique “vocabulary” consisting of form (i.e., wall surfaces and roof), materials (e.g., brick, stone, precast concrete, metal), and spatial relationships. Each vocabulary marks a time in history. Some municipalities elect to pay tribute to the past, while others choose to invent a new vocabulary that captures their own moment in time.
During a 30-year relationship with Metra (Chicago’s commuter railroad), I’ve had the opportunity to learn and “speak” many vocabularies via design. In this series, I will share “translations” of several train station vocabularies and draw from case studies from throughout the region. Examples include American Colonialism, Richardsonian Romanesque, American Arts & Crafts, Prairie, and Contemporary.
So whether you prefer the brick and stone masterpieces of yesterday, or the glass and steel wonders that point to tomorrow, get on board. It’s going to be a fun ride.
Contact us to learn more about train station design, see Ted’s series on train station design fundamentals, or comment below to share your thoughts on this post.
Thanks for the useful information!