Thursday, July 31, 2008

Railway Stations as Paths

"Paths are the channels along which the observer customarily, occasionally, or potentially moves." [Lynch p.47]
Characteristics of Paths
- width / narrowness, shape
- facade characteristics
- proximity to special features of the city
- special use or activity, movement
- continuity / fragmented
- directional quality & terminal point, spatial corridor & limits
- connections, intersections, branches

By definition, railway lines are channels that move people from one place to another, no matter it is above ground or underground. When they are above ground, they are clearly lines in the city. Passengers on the train can have different views of the city as they travel along the railway lines. But when they are underground, as Lynch put it, they are detached from surrounding elements and environment. The subway is a disconnected nether world [p.57]

One difference between railways and other paths is that people are not free to move away the channels, neither they can change their directions as they will. Passengers do not have to make any decision once they get on the train, and know exactly where they want to get off. Moreover, passengers will all get the same view of the city every time when they are above ground. It is also hard for them to interact with other elements along their ways due to the enclosed environment and the speed of the train. All of these in fact weaken the image of the railway line itself and thus dilute the traveling experience. Therefore, passengers like me pay less attention to the image of the city that is viewed from railway paths, and just focus on their own interest, like reading or music..

For railway stations, on the other hand, its role as a path is secondary. Railway stations are points on the path system which mark the start and end of a passenger's journey. They are major entrance/exit of a place and are always regarded as city nodes [p.74] in this broad scale.

While in the architectural scale, the railway stations by nature have a linear form. The long concourse and platform area can be integrated into the path system. It's horizontal facade or elevated structure can also provide a directional quality to the surrounding environment. However, such directional quality is always lost in subway stations. The linear nature of the station is not usually reflected by its superstructure. Integrating the stations to the path system become a challenging task.

In short, even though the railway lines are obvious paths in the city, railway stations are rarely recognized as paths. However, there are a lot of opportunities for the railway stations to enhance the adjacent paths, as well as to integrate with the path system.

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