Bilbao-based BABELstudio have been selected to move on to the second round of an international competition to design new entrances to the subway for the city of San Sebastian, Spain. Current finalists in the competition also include Richard Rogers, Morphosis, and Snohetta â€“ whoâ€™s entries I have yet to see â€“ putting the young BABELstudio in good company.
The design calls for a fairly minimalist approach, inspired by the cartoon The Pink Panther â€“ where the main character would lift up the ground plane like the end of a rug, creating a means of escape (see the diagram below). For the competition BABELstudio proposes a similar tactic â€“ giving the impression that the ground plane has been lifted at a single point, creating and elegant drape-like enclosure for the subway entrances.
The structure would be reinforced concrete, which (when combined with the shape) will allow for a very thin cross section of about 5 inches. The concrete will be expressed on the interior, creating a bright white contrast to the darker, tiled surface of the exterior of the entrance.
Looks pretty dope, if you ask me â€“ teenagers and skateboarders will love it. That said, I havenâ€™t seen what the other entrants have come up with â€“ Iâ€™ll be sure to have more on this as the competition progresses.
[image: a ninja awaiting the Red Line]
Welcome to Ashmont, the Southern end of Boston’s Red Line. Currently under renovations, they’re finally starting to to wrap it up and finish the project – something I hope to bring you some info on in the near future. Today, however, I’d like to focus on the ridiculousness that is the ‘high speed trolley’ that runs from Ashmont to Mattapan.Â Now you need to understand – I would rather not talk trash. In fact I look forward to the station itself being finished, so I can snap a few photos and give readers a general rundown of a project which I think has done a lot to revitalize the entire Ashmont / Peabody Square area. But for right now, follow me on this journey of foolishness.
For those of you who don’t know, the ‘high speed trolley’ running from Ashmont Â [located in Dorchester] to Mattapan Square is an extension of the MBTA’s Red Line – which, off the top of my head, serves 7 stops [not including Ashmont itself]. The trolley is quite popular, as it connects both Mattapan and Milton [a suburb to Boston’s South] with the Red Line – the train downtown is always busy in the mornings & evenings with additional commuters from the trolley. So when Ashmont was slated for renovations & redevelopment, the trolley line was included in these plans – and was actually the first thing to get a makeover. The stops were cleaned-up, some ‘antique’ trolleys were brought back into service, and the trolley stop and turnaround at Ashmont were completely redesigned and rebuilt. Everything looked fine [not great, but fine], and things seemed to be moving along at a pace that we’ve all come to expect with a government project.
And then the noise started.
[image: the T wasting my money]
Yeah, I’m talking literal ‘noise’ – as in ear splitting shrieks of pain coming from the tracks. Loud enough to be kind of physically uncomfortable when you’re on the trolley. Loud enough that I can here the trolley from my apartment – which is something like 1/3 of a mile away – but not the train [I mean, I can hear both at times – but mostly I here the shrill echo of the trolley]. The noise had been measured at over 110 decibels at the station, and over 100 decibels at nearby homes.
The problem? The track at the turnaround [seen above] has a diameter that is too tight – trolley is at an awkward angle while going around, causing more friction between wheel and track, blah blah blah – super loud noise ensues. Did someone let the intern design this portion of the track? What the hell happened here?
Well obviously whoever is responsible is in the wind – since in the Bean you can literally build something that kills someone and skate. As blaming someone won’t help anyway, a solution is worked out – after two different systems involving automated greasing of some sort fail, the T falls back on insulated blankets and sprinklers that keep the tracks/wheels wet. SPRINKLERS AND BLANKETS. This is a project coming in just under $50 million dollars [maybe more?], and the solution is the aesthetically-depressing / intelligence-insulting blanket-covered water-drenched fence seen above.
My ninjas, please.
Seriously, I don’t even have a point that I’m moving towards here – I just want everyone reading AMNP to know about the ridiculousness going on in Dorchester, and to understand what kind of crap karma you generate when your design isn’t up to snuff. Imagine owning a home where every 15 minutes or so all day long you have to deal with 110+ decibels of fingernails on a chalkboard – all because someone either cut corners or had their trig confused.
Consider this when discussing fast-tracked infrastructure projects to boost the economy. Not because we shouldn’t support them, but because they need to be watched carefully.
My favorite part of this story? A State Senator suggested we put in a Disney-style monorail a ‘middle ground’ type solution. A FECKIN’ MONORAIL!
::note: I promise that I have a cheery, positive post on Ashmont’s redevelopment as a whole in the works – I’m just waiting for them to complete the finish work::
[note: if this video won’t play, visit the original here at PBS]
Blueprint America: Beyond the Motor City examines how Detroit, a symbol of Americaâ€™s diminishing status in the world, may come to represent the future of transportation and progress in America. The film debuts nationally on PBS on February 8 at 10 pm (check local listings).Detroit is the crucible in which the nationâ€™s ability to move toward a modern 21st century transportation infrastructure is put to the test. The documentary shows how investments in the past â€” beginning with the construction of canals in the 18th century â€” profoundly shaped Detroitâ€™s physical layout, population growth and economic development. Before being dubbed the Motor City, Detroit was once home to the nationâ€™s most extensive streetcar system. In fact, it was that vast network of streetcars that carried workers to the areaâ€™s many car factories. And it was the cars made in those factories that would soon displace the streetcars in Detroit â€” and in every major American city.
Detroitâ€™s engineers went on to design the nationâ€™s first urban freeways and inspired much of Americaâ€™s 20th century transportation infrastructure system â€” from traffic signals to gas stations â€” that became the envy of the word.
But over the last 30 years, much of the world has moved on, choosing faster, cleaner, more modern transportation and leaving America â€” and Detroit â€” behind. Viewers are taken on a journey beyond Detroitâ€™s blighted urban landscape to Spain, home to one of the worldâ€™s most modern and extensive transit systems; to California, where voters recently said yes to Americaâ€™s first high speed rail system; and to Washington, where Congress will soon decide whether to finally push Americaâ€™s transportation into the 21st century.
[original comic via xkcd]
I mean, who doesn’t like infrastructure jokes?
A few more of these over at The Infrastructurist: America Under Construction – a site that I just visited for the first time today that’s definitely worth checking out.
I also enjoyed this comic by xkcd.
Obama unveils a plan to add an additional $5 Billion to fund high speed rail in the US [on top of the $8 Billion in the stimulus]. The message here? “Imagine an America that has the technology that Europe and Japan have had for something like 15 or 20 years”.
Bringing the United States into the late 20th century through infrastructure!
Seriously, though – this could be really exciting. Working to ‘undo’ what the mid 20th century did to mass transit is a noble cause – bringing our transit systems [on a national scale] up to date is a great project to undertake, especially when the auto companies are too broke to con us into buying buses or something instead. The real issue that I see here is funding the system after it’s built. We have the ‘T’ here in Boston – and the ‘commuter rail’ extending to the ‘burbs – but now with money tight [and beauracratic / legislative bullshit running rampant] they’re reducing the number of trains and cutting services even though ridership is at an all-time high.
The problems we’re having in MA got me thinking that Obama’s plan could make a significant difference to transit as a whole, by providing connections to rural areas. The ‘T’ is having funding issues, and the proposed solution [a gas tax increase] has been shot down in the legislature by the Western parts of the state – they feel they shouldn’t pay for services they don’t receive. While I’d argue they receive services that don’t benefit the cities, the fact is that connecting these rural areas to the transit system could serve to ease their feeling ‘left out’ – and encourage more taxpayers to ‘get on board’, so to speak, with transit funding.
My only question is: who is Obama referring to in the video, who says ‘this won’t work’? The plan i expensive, yes – but other than the cost, this isn’t a ‘big deal’. This isn’t rocket science here people – and we’re not setting any trends. We can look to Europe as a successful model, and go from there. We have the workers and the technology to lay the tracks and build the trains – and people will obviously ride trains if they’re running [mass transit numbers are up in just about every city, aren’t they?]. People love cars because they’ve been told to love them – and because they’re convenient. If we give them convenient trains – that create systems with similar [if not shorter] commutes that put passengers within a few blocks of their destination – people are going to love it.
Now we just need to find the Robert Moses of high speed rail [not really – that would be terrible].