Cedar-University Rapid Station

Architype Dialogue presents

Mehrdad Yazdani

What was the most difficult issue about working within this building type or the most unexpected challenge that may have influenced new thought in your project?

Infrastructure projects like this invariably involve a multitude of different agencies – often with conflicting interests. It’s important (and often challenging) to consider all sides while moving forward with the design direction. Often it helps to keep the design fluid and incorporate some of the impasses as parameters.

To illustrate, the team originally proposed a double-height space under the canopy, but the tall structure interfered with the overhead catenary lines that power the trains. We initially figured that since they were installed in the 1930’s it would be in everyone’s interest to adjust them. In the end, the number of agencies having a say in the matter made designing a lower canopy the option of choice.

Did this project expand or evolve your role as an architect in any way? In general, do you feel that the role of the architect is changing on current projects?

We certainly had to evolve and hone our iterative process – which is integral to our work, but became absolutely necessary on RTA. We had to make quick design decisions and present the solutions and ideas to the clients and users to avert unforeseen challenges as they emerged. The ability to conceptualize and design on the fly, and the availability of tools to enable presenting these solutions & ideas to the stakeholders became a real asset.

Again, it comes down to agility. Particularly in public projects, juggling budgetary, security, and sustainability concerns while arriving at an appropriate design solution for the particular site and stakeholders requires an ability to be fluid in the design process.

How is your building possible today in a way that it may not have been before and how have trends in technology and society inspired new thought and solutions?

On this project the fee and timeline were very tight. We had to rely on many of our digital tools to design and document. In order to work within the fee, we had to keep the team very small and work through several design studies while documenting them simultaneously. Fortunately, this is something we’ve continuously worked to integrate as part of our normal process.

Technology has allowed our small teams to work through several design studies while simultaneously generating documentation. It gives us the ability to design up to the last minute without worrying too much that we won’t have enough time to properly document. Now that we can do both and we can have a more resolved scheme in less time.

In the context of this project, how is your office and design process being influenced by current trends in academic curricula and incoming young architects? In turn, how are current projects and processes guiding the ongoing reformulation and development of academic curricula?

Students used to arrive fresh from school and do bathroom details and pick up red lines (red ink corrections marked on a blueprint). Or if they were on a design track, they’d get parked in a model shop for a year. Now young architects arrive from school versed in the latest technologies like parametric software – frequently more knowledgeable than the individuals who will be guiding their work. So, simultaneously the incoming generation is pushing the older generation, and the older generation is looking to capitalize on these facile young architects and get them involved in the process earlier.

On the other hand, as young architects start to occupy the front lines, the academic bubble of their education becomes more apparent. What may have seemed like a great idea in a world of white wall pin-ups and journals often falls apart when you meet the station manager who has to squeegee 3” of water off the head house (see attached picture) every time it rains because it didn’t make sense to extend the canopy too far and raise the finish floor. This will only intensify as municipalities continue the trend of deferring decisions to multiple interest groups. Schools need to find a way to incorporate real world parameters (for lack of a better term) into their pedagogy.

Architype Review thanks Mehrdad Yazdani for his interview and for contributing to this collection of Architype Dialogue.

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