Paul Lewis, Marc Tsurumaki, and David J. Lewis, founding principals of LTL Architects, designed the Train Terraces proposal for the ParkingPLUS Design Challenge. In the Village of Westbury, on two lots flanking the elevated train station platform, the architects propose urban incubators for sustainable architecture in the form of elegantly designed, mixed-use, infill projects with multiple terraces that bridge over, under, and along the tracks, continuing their award-winning design investigations into New Suburbanism. We spoke about their design in December 2013.
Your research included a close examination of the changing demographics of Long Island and other suburbs. How did this research influence your final design?
Paul Lewis, Marc Tsurumaki, and David J. Lewis: The general trend for Nassau County, where Westbury is located, is the depletion of the 20 to 34-year-old cohort critical to the long-term economic sustainability and cultural vitality of the area. One of the premises of our design was to incorporate the kinds of living and working spaces that would attract and retain younger creative individuals and thereby contribute to local growth and a more diverse population. The project provides a platform for new modes of production in the form of collaborative office space and fabrication facilities that would engage emerging ‘maker’ and tech culture and act as an incubator for nascent entrepreneurs.
What inspired the distinctive terraced form of your design?
Lewis, Tsurumaki, and Lewis: Suburbia is often defined in terms of horizontality—with little exploitation of the vertical spatial qualities that architects refer to as ‘section.’ While we were wary of imposing typologies that would be inappropriate to the context, we were fascinated by the possibilities of working through subtle sectional devices to create a more complex three-dimensional condition that would allow for an increased density of uses. The terraced form emerged from the desire to exploit the possibilities of vertical relationships within a form that played off the prevailing flatness of the surrounding context. At the same time, it negotiates the existing raised train tracks and platform and accommodates the development of multi-level parking necessary for the economic viability of the proposal. It also relates to the existing slope of the site and creates views over the large green space (actually a very lovely cemetery) to the south.
Tell me more about how your design would change the experience of a typical commuter who uses the Westbury Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) station.
Lewis, Tsurumaki, and Lewis: While the LIRR is undeniably far more economical and environmentally less damaging than commuting by car, the reality is that many train users not only drive to the station but use their cars to access the dispersed network of services and amenities that characterize suburban areas like Westbury. Referred to as ‘trip-chaining,’ this includes the sequence of going from home to school or daycare, gym, supermarket, [and other stops] on the way to and from the train station. Our project envisions gathering together and consolidating those programs directly into the station complex itself, creating a kind of one-stop experience for commuters who can now drop off their kids, get their coffee, pick up their dry cleaning, and do their shopping between their car and the train. To reduce the need for automotive use even further, we also incorporated access to alternative means of both public and personal transportation—buses, ride sharing, and cycling—in the form of an intermodal hub. The ultimate goal is to bring together a mix of uses that intensify and enrich the commuting experience while creating new efficiencies of transportation within existing systems.
How does your design activate Post Avenue (Westbury’s Main Street)?
Lewis, Tsurumaki, and Lewis: An important aspect of the design for us was that it link into and supplement the Village of Westbury—adding to the vitality of the Village rather than draining it off. To do this, we propose a connection between Post Avenue—which has undergone significant revitalization in recent years—and our project, pulling pedestrian activity into and through our site to the train station by converting the existing access drive into a viable commercial corridor. The intent is a kind of symbiotic exchange where the density of the new project feeds into and amplifies the public life of the Village and vice versa.
Your proposal features new housing as part of a parking garage. Whom do you envision moving in?
Lewis, Tsurumaki, and Lewis: We were responding to the way in which—as an effect of proximity to the train station—there was an emptying out of the downtown in the form of surface parking that contributed nothing to the quality of life in the Village. Our intent was to densify these zones while increasing parking capacity by combining and layering uses, including housing, to sponsor greater programmatic diversity and 24-hour inhabitation. We see this housing as a natural extension of other recent housing developments, some fairly large in scale, which surround the site and seem to be answering an existing demand for living space. However, in our proposal, the modest size of units, proximity to the more dynamic environment generated by the station, and new forms of working space make this housing particularly suited to the younger, productive population that we were interested in attracting to the area—as well as potentially the growing number of older residents who would benefit from the consolidation of amenities and ease of access. We can imagine residents as train commuters who could walk to the station, reducing automotive dependency, or even tech-savvy creatives taking advantage of the incubator and ‘maker’ facilities incorporated into the south side of the site with a short walk between their living and working spaces.
More about Train Terraces
See an overview of the design.
Find out more about the Design Proposal.
Watch a video of David J. Lewis and Marc Tsurumaki unveiling the design.
More about ParkingPLUS
Find out about the potential economic benefits of the ParkingPLUS designs.
Read about how to finance parking garages, and why it pays to build them in downtown and train station areas.
Learn more about the ParkingPLUS design challenge.