Well, the wait is over. Fort Lauderdale’s high-speed transit terminal design was revealed today. If it is any indication of what West Palm Beach can expect, I’ll need to be put into a trance before someone can explain to me, in a comprehensible way, how this glitzy rendering of 2 intersecting glass and metal tubes is “transformational,” or stands up to its obligation of “civic importance.”
A high speed rail service between Miami and Orlando is a transformational enterprise. It will transform South Florida in mostly positive ways. The Transit Oriented Development that is supposed to follow will transform the areas around the terminals over time. But, weak, unimaginative architecture should not be allowed to piggy back on the project’s nature and call itself transformational. It should truly be transformational on its own merit. To do that, it needs to inspire, trigger memories, and create an environment one looks forward to spending time in. The design appears to be inspired by the loading bridges to the cruise ships at Port Everglades (and maybe that is the subtle connection the architects were going for). Gangways, however, are transitional spaces, and not transformational pieces of architecture.
The civic importance of train stations is evident around the world. They are public places that bring people together with a common goal. Over time, they become part of a community’s shared experiences. This is why there is an obligation to make them great pieces or architecture. They need not be large or grand like Penn Station, but they must be beautiful and iconic symbols of who we are.
The people of West Palm Beach are much more than two intersecting gangways. I can only hope that someone is demanding more for our downtown station.