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ExploreStation: Exploring a New Design Standard for Stations Across the UK

Posted on 29 November 2021

Written by:

Elly Mead

In November, The Glass-House delivered our first round of exhibitions and workshops for ExploreStation, a programme of online and face-to-face activities in partnership with Design Council, Digital Urban and Commonplace, which is engaging the public in shaping the final stages of a new station design standard being developed for small to medium-sized rail stations across the country for Network Rail.  

The design is being developed by 7N Architects, an Edinburgh-based architectural practice that won the RIBA design competition, Re-Imagining Railway Stations,  launched by Network Rail in 2020. The brief for the competition was informed and shaped by a passenger and stakeholder engagement project, ThinkStation, commissioned by Network Rail and delivered by Design Council in 2019/ 2020 through a series of workshops across the UK.

ExploreStation is an opportunity to continue the conversation started through ThinkStation, and to co-develop the design proposal from 7N Architects to ensure it reflects the varied needs and wants of passengers. ExploreStation’s engagement is being delivered through a diverse approach; Commonplace, which is an online platform where anyone with access to the internet can explore the current design proposal and feedback their opinions; Digital Urban, which will be delivering a series of interactive virtual reality pop-up events in February 2022; and The Glass-House, we will be delivering a series of in-person and online workshops and exhibitions.

Our Engagement Roadshow

Jake talking to one of the visitors to our Bristol exhibition.

At the start of November, The Glass-House delivered a series of online and face-to-face activities in venues across Britain as part the first round of ExploreStation’s engagement activities. We began the week with an online workshop, working with ThinkStation stakeholders from across the UK. The session aimed to utilise their expert knowledge and previous understanding of the project context to unpack the current proposed design, and resulted in the formulation of a series of key recommendations to help the next iteration and to continue to build on what had emerged through ThinkStation.

We then embarked on our road trip around the country, holding events at Israac in Sheffield, Engine Shed in Bristol and the City Hall in Cardiff to deliver our first round of face-to-face workshops and exhibitions. The exhibition, made up of a series of information panels and interactive, playful activities, aimed to inform and explore Network Rail and the design journey, process and principles. We used interactive polling to unpick the place of stations in communities and dug into visitors’ experiences, memories and stories of railway stations and rail travel through our ‘washing line of memories’ activity, which used postcards featuring images from British rail history. We have created an Exhibition Guide, which captures the exhibition boards and is available to read and download on our website here.

Sophia with participants during our exhibition in Cardiff

The Workshops

Our workshops were designed as independent, collaborative spaces in which we could facilitate honest discussions with participants about the proposed station design and their perceptions and opinions on it. These were safe spaces, with neither Network Rail nor the design team in the room where participants were free to express what they saw as the strengths and weaknesses of the design at this stage of development, and could work with others to formulate constructive feedback and ideas to take share with the design team. 

We started each session with an informative presentation, unpicking the project journey and the proposed design, highlighting key design principles and features. Then, using a series of interactive activities, including inviting participants to step into a series of stakeholder roles and creative collaging, we explored the diverse range of needs of the British public and how the new station design could respond to these and be embedded and activated within local communities and places.

Our participants getting stuck into the interactive activities during the Sheffield Workshop

Ending the session with a joined up discussion, we reflected on the current design proposal and process, and gathered useful insights and feedback from participants about how they want to see the design evolve.

What Next?

The feedback, conversations and opinions gathered from this initial round of engagement have been collated by The Glass-House and Design Council, and fed back to the design team, along with the views gathered on Commonplace,  in order to inform the next iteration of the design from 7N Architects. In February 2022, we will begin our next round of workshops exploring the updated design proposal.

Join The Conversation

We look forward to continuing the conversation through this second round of workshops. Keep an eye on our Events page for more information about these events. 

Digital Urban will also be running a  series of interactive immersive experiences in locations across the UK during this round, using virtual reality to explore the next iteration of the proposed design. 

In the meantime, make sure you visit the Commonplace platform to explore the initial design proposal and to share your feedback and views on the future of Great British rail.