Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The New Union Station, DC

Union Station is going to get a facelift of sorts.  After nearly 100 years of service, Washington D.C.'s Union Station is going to get a grand renovation worthy of the beauty that it already has.  The existing soaring barrel-vaulted ceilings will be difficult to trump, but HOK's studio has done a brilliant job with their design, maintaining the beauty and structure of the existing and renowned station with multiple levels of shops, restaurants, and a sort-of indoor promenade that is perfect for people-watching.  It even houses a cinema on the lower level, along with access to the D.C. metro system connecting the city.

The new renovation is going to replace the existing train shed, providing more space, better lighting, and a lot of beauty (And who doesn't want more beauty?)!  What's great is that this isn't just any old beauty, but in a concrete jungle, it will be a garden-of-Eden-type beauty with off-set undulating roofs that are glazed to not only allow light to stream into the station but will, equally importantly, provide views to the outside.

These views are going to highlight the green roofs that HOK chose to help with rainwater retention to decrease water runoff (that carries pollutants and garbage to river ways, ponds, and eventually to our oceans when there is heavy rainfall and the existing engineered water treatment system overflows).  Green roofs can also be a wonderful form of thermal insulation both to retain heat or cool air, which is especially important in the temperate D.C. climate which has all four seasons.  Additionally, studies have shown an increase in productivity, health and happiness as well as decreases in anxiety, stress, and tension.  Don't believe me?  Google Search: "studies of green spaces on human brain."  You'll be hard-pressed to find one of them that talks about the detriment to human activity, psychology or sociologic behavior that green spaces have (here's your friendly reminder to return to nature)! 

Kudos to HOK for finding a way to be green and utilize their sustainable ideas as a teaching tool.  Too often green roofs are implemented and people don't even know about them.  How will people grasp their impacts in a real way if they never know they are experiencing them firsthand?  I maintain that "knowing is half the battle" so educating people by giving them visual access to how their spaces function is a wonderful design contribution not only to Union Station as a piece of art, with its inspirational free-form, but also as a functional and educational space for its travelers, visitors, staff, and other users.

and be sure to click on the slideshow to see some of their great images
*Thank you to LP for the find!*

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