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5 July 2016

Designer Q+A: Anthony Leslie, Aviation + Transportation Specialist in HOK’s London Office

Anthony Leslie HOK London Aviation TransportationArchitect Anthony Leslie wants to bring the city into airports, train stations and other transportation hubs. As a vice president and Aviation + Transportation specialist in HOK’s London office, he has more than 25 years of experience leading the design of innovative projects in the transportation sector, including developments by HOK offices worldwide.

Leslie’s recent projects have included design of the Lusail Public Realm project, Msheireb Station in Doha, Qatar, and the Fisher Street Flats + Crossrail Shaft in London.

What do you enjoy about designing transportation facilities?

AL: Transportation drives how mankind creates community, both for work and leisure. We design these projects to provide a superior travel experience while making a positive impact on the public realm and urban regeneration. I enjoy the idea that we are creating a beautiful design for a building that has a primary goal of being useful. It becomes an asset that enables—a public place, often taxpayer funded, which is shared by all. The opportunity to do this on projects around the world is exhilarating.

HOK Riyadh Saudi Arabia Transportation Design ArchitectMetro System Design Competition in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

How is the role of multimodal transportation hubs changing?

Multimodal hubs bring together different forms of movement, improving and connecting our towns and cities. These hubs also have become creators of neighborhoods, especially within established urban areas. When the railways were originally constructed, they created scars in the urban fabric. Those scars are now healing, with exciting results.

We are supporting a major contractor on the Transport for London framework. The goal of that framework is to partner land owners—infrastructure owners who control vast tracts of inner city real estate—with developers and constructors. In a recent a symposium for business leaders in London, it became clear that the future of infrastructure projects is in partnerships that create benefits for the operators and adjacent developers. Collaborating with all of a project’s stakeholders is HOK’s sweet spot.

In addition to functioning as passenger terminals, there is an expectation that transportation hubs will generate economic growth and foot traffic. To do this, they need to develop new revenue streams within their walls. Externally, these multimodal hubs have opportunities to drive land use and movement patterns and to create their own neighborhoods.

Lusai Commercial Boulevard Transit Station Design Doha Qatar HOKLusail Commercial Boulevard Transit Station in Doha, Qatar

How are multimodal hubs generating growth and foot traffic?

Some are still attempting to extract the most value from existing assets such as retail outlets and hotels. Other transportation hubs, like the King’s Cross St. Pancras complex, have moved beyond this and are considering how the entire estate relates to the city. Both of the complex’s terminals have significantly enhanced their retail offerings and become their own destinations. They also have exploited their huge sites to create new neighborhood districts.

In London, upcoming megaprojects Crossrail 2 and High Speed 2 will offer expanded opportunities on a bigger scale. Over a period of time, the ARTIC rail station that HOK designed in Southern California will become a similar economic engine.

I enjoy evaluating a city’s relationship to a multimodal hub and understanding how it can act as its own standalone environment that hosts events, provides connections and supports the local culture. As an architect, this is an exciting way to interact with a city.

crossrail fisher street hok london anthony leslieFisher Street Flats and Crossrail Shaft in London, UK

How are multimodal hubs generating alternative revenue streams?

Regardless of whether a local economy is growing, the transportation and non-transportation revenues at a transport facility are linked. Transportation hubs can break this connection by reaching out into the city to optimize their real estate and generate economic growth.

After HOK designed the Msheireb Downtown Doha Phase Four project, Qatar Rail decided to place Mshereib Station, an enormous interchange station made up of two large, intersecting concrete boxes, directly under the development, which has five levels of car park basements. We were asked to develop concept designs for a station that would achieve the best balance of satisfying the needs of a large underground rail station and those of the developer above. We went one step further and facilitated an agreement between the two parties, creating revenue opportunities for both sides.

Doha Metro Msheireb StationMsheireb Station in Doha, Qatar

What are the primary considerations when planning additions to transportation hubs? 

Designers must consider efficient connectivity, pedestrian wayfinding and the creation of memorable places. We develop strategies for achieving the hub effect that comes from placing travel, shipping, commercial, business, cultural, hospitality and entertainment functions near each other. Designers need to coordinate the interaction among many diverse stakeholders.

What are the unique challenges of developing intermodal offerings at existing transportation interchanges?

The challenges are internal and external. Within a facility, trying to create extra space for enhanced operations and non-transportation revenue streams can be a challenge. As demand for mass transit has risen, the need for clear, generous circulation corridors has consumed more space. Integrating extra connectivity and capacity can require significant capital expenditures, especially when below-grade construction such as tunnelling and mining is involved. Externally, the issues involve the availability of space to create a high-quality urban realm that facilitates functionality and creates the appropriate sense of place.

How can simulation tools help designers plan the best transportation hubs?

Designers need to respond to big data. HOK has developed tools that bring measurable data sources into our city planning processes. We can integrate data about transportation flow, amenity spaces, urban density, energy use, demographic changes and other factors into plans for a neighborhood or city. I see the availability of this data offering opportunities and challenges similar to those created by the BIM revolution.

With the collaboration that takes place between our transportation and urban designers, HOK is well-positioned to take advantage of these tools. There is a strong connection between the two disciplines, especially at the strategic level.