'When we directly consider a rail car as a public realm, it becomes a vehicle for concentrated urban engagement'

Boston Train: Urban Grafting
Train Cab to Plaza

AWARDED: Shift Boston 'Why Stop' Award

'We like the way in which this entry engages the rolling stock as part of the project. This yields both an ingenious space of public spectatorship and also marks the kinetic character of the serial arrival and departure of trains.'  

Award Committee Comments

A bold appreciation for the capacities of existing systems is fundamental to this strategy envisioned for, but not limited to, New Bedford. This is especially emblematic to the revision of a site that extends the rail into the more dense downtown as a ‘superblock’ of mixed public spaces and program. The new site will leverage existing public services and furthermore grow established businesses to foster new ventures.

The train is an active part of program as a device that enables urbanity. The fusion of plaza assemblage directly with the rail form a new perspective on the train cab as a public realm, and the motivating force to the experience of the city. In other words, not simply ‘density’ but activity, and performance.


The strategy to build within an established matrix (in New Bedford’s case, a historical one) will yield a further enduring result greater than greenfield speculation. While the established site along the wharf had a scenographic context, the new proposed site between Union and William Streets frame a significant and historically authentic context.

This proposal is in support of existing economies. The new influx of visitors will grow existing businesses in tandem with the founding of new ventures. With it’s proximity and now brief commute to Boston, New Bedford becomes a satellite city for research and job specialization.


This proposes to transform the definition of infrastructural elements into spatial devices which amplify the public realm. The cabs themselves are a catalyst as an immediate, temporary, and evocative means of a new public forum. This is an opportunity to test the scale at which the public voice can occur; a smaller enclosed cab? at a medium size arena? or in a larger plaza?

Standard rail cab chassis are mechanically modified into a convertible cab that reveals a stadium seating arrangement. From an otherwise barrier, new spatial territories and program are offered by the open position of the body panels, to one side a vertical backdrop for event, to the other a compression of space as a temporary market.


The rail cab has a variety of active traits as container, backdrop, and public forum. Upon arrival the train transforms from a linear seating configuration of ‘social steps’ into an instant theater for public performances and a market for local production.


Reinforcing the historical park, three blocks merge to form a super block of enclosed plaza groupings yielding a new city center. In respect to the spatial techniques of Italian medieval towns with attached cathedrals, the train station is an attached device that lends its facade to each of the plazas. This elevates the material nature of the station as its facades address each street portal and walking path with a variety of visual depths.

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