In 2017, a competition led by the Barr Foundation called for ideas for future Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) stations that create a sense of civic pride and a world-class transit experience for Bostonians. Bold yet timeless design, rider comfort, and seamless integration into the streetscape were the objectives. “The Billow” is the vision of an interdisciplinary team of urban designers, transportation planners, and architects, and is named for its sculptural and weightless form.
The station’s canopies are shaped to acknowledge the directionality of the buses. Rather than run columns down the centerline, the proposal places them on a diagonal, providing additional area at the front of the bus. A single beam serves as the spring point of the curved double canopy.
The roof was inspired by the voluminous and strongly figurative roofs of H.H. Richardson’s suburban train stations. While the upper surface will be a warm grey, the natural color of the concrete, the underside will have bright patterns or murals customized for each neighborhood. These murals will recede during the day, when the hustle and bustle of the surrounding city will dominate, but uplighting will transform them into welcoming beacons at night. The crosswalks leading to the stations are an extension of the art featured on the canopy ceiling.
While the canopies are distinctively figurative, they also work as a kit of parts. When used in more conventional sidewalk applications, the sidewalk-facing canopy provides space for a kiosk, such as a coffee shop, a fruit seller, or a newsstand, providing an amenity for the neighborhood and a high-traffic retail location for a local business. The remaining area can be used for movable chairs that double as an outdoor café and a pleasant place to wait.