A link to these Soviet era bus shelters has been floating around, and I enjoyed browsing through the photos. They range from very modern concrete form to folk-art mural inspired to Route 66 attraction marker. Looking at them, the shots make the landscape around them so lonely, although some of them show some obvious care and maintenance from people in as much as the paint looks to be in pretty good shape. There is only one picture with a shot of a person in it, and I do wonder more about how the shelters get used. How often does the bus come? How long do people wait there? What do they look like in the winter?
This got me thinking to bus shelters in general, as they're one of those small sturctures that I feel as a landscape architect I could probably design without killing someone. It's kinda' like a trellis or something, after all. They let me build those. But I don't think landscape architects often do design these shelters. Reading on the industrial design site Core77, sounds like industrial designers and architects duke it out for the chance to build them. But I think landscape architects should step into the ring more often.
After the Rebar Group here in San Francisco had their Park(ing) event, I started thinking about what other elements of the urban environment were under-appreciated. Bus shelters soon came to top my list. They're a place to sit and wait, to step out of the rain, etc. Clearly their visual impact has a value or else advertisers would not pay good money to advertise on them. What if some more of that money was put back into making them more hospitable? They also are good potential placemaking structures for a neighborhood. Each district could adopt their bus shelters in a city and the unique design elements would represent place.
Where specifically do landscape architects get into this? Well, what I have found to be pretty rare is a bus shelter that has any plantings or greenery at all. Not that landscape architects are around just to shrub things up, but I think plants can be used to help differentiate areas, provide seasonal change, shelter from wind, shelter from sun, allow some sun in, etc. Here are a few examples from the Project for Public Spaces photo gallery:
Beyond aesthetic purpose, maybe each shelter has a mini-greenroof that mitigates a little bit of stormwater impact. If you add up the surface area of all bus shelter rooftops in a city, that's probably a decent amount of runoff slowed captured and/or slowed down. Maybe on top of that you get some habitat value, some visual value, etc. There are options. We just need to explore them further.