Finessing the form of a transportation hub in Snowmass Village
Town council considers angle, mass in ongoing review of transit center design
There’s a saying in architecture that “form follows function” — that the purpose of the building should guide how a building looks.
And a proposed design for the new Snowmass Village transit center is abundant in function: a 45-degree angle to the building helps with rider queues and bus flow, a two-story layout would put the transportation offices in the transportation hub and allow the town to own the offices for the department. (The town currently rents the existing offices on Elbert Lane.)
Town Councilman Tom Fridstein — himself a career architect — just wants to see a bit more finesse with the form.
“You’re approaching it at a level of just, ‘let’s make this thing work as well as it can be,’ and I’m saying really good urban design works really well, but it also goes the extra 10%, and it really becomes extraordinary, and I don’t think we’re there,” Fridstein said during ongoing review of early-stage designs at a July 12 work session. “I mean, there’s a million reasons we could do this or do that. … I get it, but we really deserve a great design.”
Two elements of the proposed design have been sticking points during the review of a building that would serve as a transit hub in the center of a bus loading zone: angle and mass.
The building as it was presented at two earlier regular meetings June 21 and July 6 is positioned at about a 45-degree angle relative to the rest of the Snowmass Mall; pedestrians entering and exiting the building would cross the street at a diagonal from what is currently Lot 6 to the corridor of the Snowmass Mall closest to Gene Taylor’s Sports. (Visually, this design looks a bit like a structure shaped like an “X” inside of a square made of bus lanes.)
That angle aims to maintain flow in the outdoor spaces where people would wait for the bus and also would ensure an easy in-and-out for buses that load closest to the crosswalk, designer Alex Jauch of design team SEH explained last week.
With the crosswalk guiding people toward the mall, the crosswalk also is aligned with pedestrian’s current habits to take the shortest possible route from the mall to the bus stop, said transportation director David Peckler and Councilwoman Alyssa Shenk.
Fridstein requested last week that Jauch and the SEH team draft a version of schematics in which the building followed a more “orthogonal” layout with a focus on 90-degree angles that align linearly with the rest of the Snowmass Mall. (Think of a lowercase “t” inside of that bus lane box instead of an “X,” with the entrance of the proposed building perpendicular to the corridor of the Snowmass Mall between Fuel and Incline Sports.)
Council got to compare the two angles side-by-side this week; Fridstein said he appreciated the effort and maintained that the building should be on a “t” axis rather than an “X.”
Other members didn’t quite have the same strong feelings on the issue.
“I’m not an architect, he knows way more than I do, but it’s just, speaking as a normal person and sitting at that bus stop for the last 15 years helping people — people care more about what bus they’re getting on than how a building looks or what’s around,” Shenk said. “They’re so paranoid about missing the bus or getting on the wrong bus or slipping on the ice that I don’t think people are going to even think twice about it unless they’re an architect.”
Mayor Bill Madsen likewise didn’t have much stake in the angle game.
“If you look at the mall, I mean, there’s a tremendous amount of angles in that area, so I just don’t see what you’re gaining by trying to line it up with anything on the mall,” Madsen said.
Aesthetics is the point, Fridstein said. Councilman Bob Sirkus, taking what he saw as “the middle view,” also felt the building could be shifted slightly in an effort to guide people toward the larger, more open entrance to the mall between Fuel and Incline rather than the narrower corridor next to Gene Taylor’s.
“It seems to be that by this design, by design or by accident, we are changing the main entry point into the mall,” Sirkus said.
Then there’s the matter of mass: It’s currently designed as a two-story building that would provide town-owned transportation offices on the second floor; that’s a larger setup than the one-story building that was proposed in earlier renderings.
Again, Fridstein argued, function and pragmatism shouldn’t be the only consideration. He’d like to see a smaller building, perhaps for riders only, that also could make space for riders to queue with the building reoriented perpendicular to the mall, he suggested.
“It’s our front door. We’re dealing with a lot of mass which is foreign to our town so we’ve got to be really careful in how we handle it,” Fridstein said.
But it also helps the town to own rather than rent its transit offices, Madsen and town manager Clint Kinney pointed out, and it certainly doesn’t hurt to have administrators in close proximity to operations, Shenk noted.
“The point is that the people that control transportation are closest to the main hub of transportation. … You’re bringing the administrative staff as close as they could be to the central hub of what they need to do,” Shenk said.
Even Tom Goode — the lone council member who voted against the structure when it was first up for council approval in part because what he said June 12 is a “big burden on the community” — noted the benefits to going with a larger building now to prepare for the long run of an evolving town.
“As this village is growing, … we’re going to need more space,” Goode said. “And then what happens if we don’t do it, and then all of a sudden, somebody says, ‘We should have put the offices up there’? We don’t know what’s going to happen in the mall.”
Current critiques of the building fall into the “owner’s review” category, with a focus on overall design and how the building fits with the rest of the village; the owners, in this case, are representatives of the town of Snowmass Village.
Designs are still only a fraction of the way to completion, with plenty more work to be done before council gets into the nitty gritty.
Land use review about how the building meets development codes will come later on in the process. A resolution on submission requirements is tentatively on the draft agenda for a regular meeting Monday.
The Aspen Ambulance District seeks a property-tax increase to keep up its level of service, and the Pitkin County commissioners showed initial willingness this week to put the question on the Nov. 8 ballot.
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