The streetcar may conjure up nostalgic images, but look at some of the major metropolitan areas in the U.S. – Portland, Seattle, Salt Lake City, Tucson, Atlanta, Dallas, Washington D.C. and Orange County – and it’s clear that cities are starting to embrace the streetcar once again.
Over the past several months, we’ve been working with the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) on the conceptual stop design for a streetcar system that will transform the community and small-business landscape of Santa Ana and Garden Grove in Southern California. In a way, it’s like a revival of the old streetcar that ran from LA to downtown Santa Ana—but in a new era of transportation!
At RNL, sustainability is a key part of our identity. ‘Design to thrive’ is more than just a slogan at RNL; it’s our entire design philosophy. Two recent projects that really exemplify that philosophy are the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro)’s Division 13 Bus Operations & Maintenance Facility in Los Angeles and the new Denver Water Campus. Here’s a little more about what makes them so special...
Our friend and photographer, Chang Kim, has released his final video of Division 13. The $120M bus operations and maintenance facility is a slick example of how a giant bus lot can make an impact on the built environment through sustainable technologies, pedestrian acknowledgement and a collaborative integration of art and architecture. We weren’t able to put a camera on the front of a bus to film the facility, but are still very happy to share with everyone!
“What a beautiful maintenance facility!” said no one ever.
But Division 13 (D13) isn’t your average bus maintenance and operations facility. Beauty, whether being used as an adjective to refer to our built environment or otherwise, is inherently subjective and its use is easily debatable. Beauty can describe physical appearance and it can also be about the meaning and the process behind a project. LA Metro and the D13 design team at RNL sought to design something different when the project was first conceived. The facility was not only meant to be physically attractive, but it was also to represent something different, that appeals to the senses on a larger scale.
The use of color, scale, landscape and massing all contribute to the beauty of D13, but one element stands out above the others is the public art integration. The lantern, as it is referred to, is subtle and almost hidden during the day, but at night becomes a focal point. The dynamic art piece is the product of an extremely collaborative effort by RNL, Metro Art, 3form and artist Christine Ulke. The artwork consists of hand drawings of a sycamore tree that were scanned, enlarged and printed onto a interlayer of composite translucent 3form panels. Titled El Aliso de Los Angeles, the piece commemorates a 400 year old tree which stood near the site and was cut down due to encroaching industrialization. The massive tree was at the center of Yaanga, one of the largest settlements of the native Tongva people in the LA basin.
It can be seen as an urban scale lantern, but more importantly as a commentary on the control of nature imposed by the built environment. Beauty is sometimes in the details (or the materials), but it can also be in the statement made by a public agency in partnership with artists and architects. D13 may not appeal to everyone or evoke feelings of beauty for many, but the process and the story can be appreciated by even the most cynical of critics.
Will Todd, AIA, LEED AP BD+C
RNL Associate, Project Architect
By promoting health and well-being, agencies have an opportunity to show leadership & innovation in a truly holistic approach to total worker health, while benefiting workforce productivity & happiness.
Studies have shown that the U.S. workforce generally is in a crisis of stress, sleep disorders and preventable illnesses. RNL considers the impact of design on health and wellbeing in all our projects, and nowhere is this more apparent than in our transportation studio’s work. For transit operators in charge of passenger lives, the negative impacts of mental and physical stress can quickly become dangerous.
Read part one of our four-part series on the need for prioritizing health and wellbeing in the design and operations of transit facilities.
Transit ridership is at its highest level in four decades, and many agencies are expanding their operations in response. Now is the time for organizations to look at their impact on employees and the message it sends to the greater community. - by Rachel Bannon-Godfrey & Ken Anderson for Metro Magazine