The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) is ready for a new look. With multiple rail-line extensions in the works, the agency recently hired LA firm Johnson Fain to help it reshape its identity through a “kit of parts” design that can be applied to any of the three station types.
According to architect Brian Knight, Metro had three primary concerns. The first was to streamline maintenance and materials procurement. Second, Metro sought a stronger brand. “Right now each station is so different it’s really hard to say, ‘This is a Metro station,’” said Knight. Finally, Metro wished to elevate the quality of station design. “They really wanted to raise the bar,” explained Knight. “There still will be areas for local art components, but overall the design is going to be the stations themselves.”
Johnson Fain began work on the project two years ago, with a system-wide audit of Metro’s rail stations. They also looked at about 180 stations around the globe, identifying eight as exemplars of modern transportation architecture. Back in Los Angeles, the team combined what it had gleaned overseas with an awareness of Metro’s emphasis on maintenance, materials, identity, and design quality.
The design combines a glass canopy, a steel structure (to be painted white), and a concrete spine running down the middle of the rail platform. “[The concrete] acts as a sort of collector of all the [electronic] components you find in a typical station,” said Knight. “Right now those components are placed ad hoc. We developed a system of plug and play into the concrete collector.”
Metro approved Johnson Fain’s design concept one year ago, and the firm has since completed drawings that Metro will pass on to the builder. “The drawings we developed are much further developed than what Metro hands off to a design-builder now,” said Knight. The agency’s previous directive drawings were “very schematic,” he said, and allowed the builder a lot of leeway. It was exactly this station-to-station variation that created problems with maintenance and brand identity in the first place.
Elements of Johnson Fain’s “kit of parts” will be incorporated into the Regional Connector Transit Project. The first full station redesign will take place at Wilshire-Western on the Purple Line, with construction beginning early 2014. Stations along the Crenshaw/LAX Transit Project will follow.