A concept for an electric vehicle (EV) charging station defined by a set of steel canopy structures has won the American Institute of Steel Construction’s 2023 Forge Prize. The annual prize “celebrates emerging architects who create visionary designs that embrace steel as the primary structural component while exploring ways to increase project speed.”
Designed by LVL (Level) Studio in collaboration with Schuff Steel, Electric Oasis envisions a destination where electric vehicles can charge and where drivers and passengers can pass time while their cars juice up. The proposed program includes on-site retail, areas to play, places to work, and even healthcare offices. While proposed for a site in California, the idea could be implemented just about anywhere.
As electric vehicles increase in popularity, a consideration for designing stations is the waiting time of drivers as their vehicles charge. Gas-operated vehicles fill up quickly, with the average time spent at a station totaling just seven minutes, while electric vehicles can take over four hours to reach full capacity.
“You’ve taken something very mundane that we give not a second thought to usually and injected a certain level of magic—not just waiting for the charging, but also what you can do with that time,” said Forge Prize Judge and national healing practice director at BSA LifeStructures Melanie Harris in a statement. “We’re all looking for efficiencies in our life these days and the last thing we want to do is wait around and do nothing while we wait for our cars to charge.”
LVL (Level) Studio’s concept revises traditional gas station and parking lot infrastructure through proposing a surface lot with rows of charging stations lined under a series of steel canopy structures. The fan-like shades block the sun. Behind the row of canopies are a grouping of rectangular volumes where shops and offices could be located. The roofs of these buildings could be equipped with photovoltaic panels. A spiraling path where patrons can take in surrounding views to pass time is threaded through the campus.
In using steel for the concept, the design team is utilizing the “modular potential” of the metal material, as well as its fast assembly and its recyclable properties.
Another sustainable component of the vision is soil remediation. As the concept is imagined on the site of a former gas station there is a likelihood of ground contamination. The design incorporates technology that is able to address this, which would clean up the site.
“This is a vehicular kind of society,” added Forge Prize Judge Rona Rothenberg. “This is a great way to reuse what we already have and transform it into a resilient, sustainable and lasting solution.”
Electric Oasis bested two other finalists to win the 2023 Forge Prize competition. The runner ups were Adaptive Micro Cities, a virtual community on a Portland, Oregon island from JRMA Architects Engineers; and an idea for a multi-modal transportation hub in San Francisco by Huntsman Architectural Group.
As the winner of the Forge Prize, LVL (Level) Studio will receive $10,000. The design team will give a presentation on the project at Architecture in Steel at NASCC: The Steel Conference in Charlotte, North Carolina, on April 12.